Just a prickle of a moment, when he was hardly even aware of her speaking.
Just a moment for her to get into his head, under his skin, bleeding into who he was like a paper cut, ever so slow. A glimpse, just a moment of a glimpse: someone to believe in.
Just a moment.
He remembered her first day perfectly. He hated how it had been Xander who got there first, when he was still hovering in the corridor watching the lovely girl in the suede boots walk by and praying fantasies to heaven that one day - one day she'd notice him.
When Jesse had disappeared he'd hoped he could squeeze his way in, but she barely looked at him. She barely even cared he existed. It was never fair that Xander was such a geek and he got such a good deal. Never. Two years he spent like that, wasting away stealing glances from the back of class. No wonder he was anaemic.
Make them pay attention, Willow said to him once. Sometimes the fantasy isn't enough, Willow said.
It had been too much to think, that for a second it could all become real. And too much to think it might never, ever happen.
I'm sure you'll understand why, he'd written. Buffy was smart like that. Buffy would know.
Buffy did know. You have all this pain, all these feelings, and nobody's really paying attention.
I wouldn't ever hurt anybody, he'd told her. I wouldn't ever hurt you. But you'll never know that.
Suspension had just bored him. His father had never spoken to him again after that, properly, not that he cared.
Therapy was good for him, thinking all the time that her life sucked too. She probably had therapy too, he'd be betting every day, maybe she'd come by. One day, one day she'd come by.
And when she didn't, there was Andrew.
Andrew was good for him too for a while there, with the spell and the being all-perfect; things she'd done became things he'd done, and he would live them over in his mind again and again, imagining. Closer to her than ever.
It couldn't last, but he got over it. He found the answer the day he met Warren and saw that look in his eyes, that glint of madness mixed with geekhood and a freaky brain to match. Andrew introduced them. Superstar Spellcaster, meet Robotic Genius. And Andrew... Andrew would be the pin, tacking him to that genius, just long enough.
He'd watch them. Warren would be Skeletor, Andrew would always have to be Evil-Lyn and always whine about it. He'd keep whining until Warren got mad at them both for no really good reason he could figure out, and then stomp off to the bedroom. Andrew's bedroom, really - he'd bagsied it first. Warren's only because they came as a package. Jonathan slept on the couch, on the nights he slept.
She was going to hate him, he was smart enough to realise that. And he had to share it with those two who didn't need it at all, wrapped up in themselves and their evil plans, making noises enough that he knew what they did in that bedroom - oh, he knew. He just didn't care. It kept Andrew out of the way and Warren's nasty appetite away from him. Gave him more time to lie awake and plan...
Buffy was going to hate him for everything they came up with, wonder which one of them thought of it first. Averages said she'd come to suspect him soon enough - and maybe even months could go by when all that crossed her mind was where he was, what he was doing, where he was going.
All the little ways he could lay trails for her, he did. All the time he could spare, watching and rewatching, tapes of her again and again. Looking for them.
Looking for him.
When they got the ray gun working it was the best thing ever, because invisible she could have been anywhere, and he could choose to be stupid on purpose. She was there in the kitchen when he drowned his cereal, sitting on the couch watching reruns, Slayer strength yanking him off when he couldn't not listen for the bedroom any longer.
He tripped three times going to the bathroom and woke Warren that night, who looked at him like he was nothing, saw the stains and the dribble on his boxers as he tried to turn away and sneered. As if it was any different, him and Andrew, making like they were even adult enough to care.
He was sorry when Tara died, a little. Didn't know her, but still. It was a nasty thrill to think, another place another time another life, maybe it would have been him taking her bullet like that. Peas in a pod, bullets in a gun, what's the difference?
He was still happier that she was all right... never more so when she laid eyes on him after, and he felt the blame seep into him as if she could dig a thousand burning holes in him just with a look.
She hated him, and he finally felt alive.
He'd only agreed to coming back to find her, to make sure. What if Mexico was too far? What if she forgot? It would be all wrong again, it would take years to fix it all if she'd forgotten him.
When the knife went in it was just like cutting round the outline, digging him out of the sad little nerd boy he shouldn't have been - there was the pull, the beautiful pull of the seal and the darkness showing him what he was to her, the real Jonathan. Nemesis extraordinaire, finally giving her the only fight she was made for.
Dying for a purpose, this was the realm of being truly something. Buffy would be proud.