Yan!Jonathan trying to convince his Darling that everyone else is trying to take them from him
“Don’t you trust me?”
You felt a headache coming on, which tended to happen in situations like this.
“Jonathan,” you said in the sweetest voice you could muster, trying not to clench your teeth, “this isn’t about trust. Of course I trust you! I knowyou, but I also know my best friend, and he wouldn’t do this kind of thing.”
Your boyfriend’s face brightened up at the words ‘I trust you’, but immediately fell again as you finished your sentence, ending up in the territory of ‘sad puppy’. You suppressed a groan. These conversations were always a pain, because his sweet face and earnest arguments always made you end up feeling like the bad guy somehow, even if all you were doing was trying to set boundaries.
You took a long drink from the water he’d given you, buying a few seconds to stave off the headache and avoid having to look at the dinner table littered with photographs, but eventually the glass was emptied and you had no choice but to sit down and deal with what was waiting for you there. Jonathan immediately took the seat next to you, a solid and secure presence at your side. He really wasn’t a bad guy–the two of you had hit it off immediately over some common interests and a shared major in archaeology–and since the first dinner date had been nothing but attentive and thoughtful. It was a sad irony, you decided as he leaned just a little closer towards you, that the very thing you found so attractive about him was rapidly becoming his biggest problem.
Jonathan was…protective, as some–including you–might generously put it. About a week ago, your friend put it a little less generously.
“I’m serious, dude. I get what you see in him, but your boyfriend gives off a bit of a weird vibe. You really don’t think he’s too clingy?”
“That’s not fair.” you jutted your chin at him defiantly, getting more annoyed with his incredulous reaction, “Jonathan’s just a thoughtful guy. It’s actually nice for a change, I’ll have you know–he drove over two hours yesterday to pick up the book I needed for my article! Brian would have just let me hang.”
“Yeah, he drove an hour for a book yesterday. The day before that, he delivered your groceries. The day before that, he did a checkup on your car. By himself. The day before that, he sent you flowers because you looked at them in a florist’s window for too long. I’m telling you, it feels…off. Like he’s trying too hard.”
You’d ended the conversation there, maybe in a bit of a huff–maybe from another guy it would have been too much, but there was something earnestabout Jonathan that made everything he did feel like it was from the heart. Which, okay, might have been why you’ve let him get away with his overprotective behavior for so long. Walking you home from dinner turned into walking you home every night, and you’re pretty sure he’d walk you between classes if he didn’t have his own schedule he was forced to attend. In the beginning, you laughed off his concerns that there were some real creeps around your campus, and that you needed to be careful.
Now…you weren’t sure.
You tried and failed to suppress a shudder as you stared at one photograph in particular, and Jonathan immediately reached forward to take your closest hand in two of his own.
“I’m sorry to upset you like this. If you need a min–”
“I’m fine,” you snapped back, an edge in your voice.
They were photos of you. More importantly, they were photos of you when you didn’t know you were being watched. You could tell that these were taken on different days and at different times because of the outfits and lighting–here’s one from when you were out shopping, here’s one from when you were walking home alone, here’s one where you were cooking dinner…
Here’s one where you were asleep.
Your eyes lingered on this last one, trying to clamp down on the rising horror and nausea as you stared at your own unconscious
helpless, vulnerable face. You didn’t see it, but Jonathan was studying your expression carefully, too–not the one in the photos, but your reaction.
“He wouldn’t–” you tried again, but uncertainty was starting to poison your voice. You struggled to think, the room dead silent except for your voice and the ticking of the kitchen clock, even Jonathan seemed to be holding his breath as he waited. You’d lent your friend your key once, didn’t you? Sure, he gave it back, but who’s to say he hadn’t made a copy of it beforehand?
Was your friend some kind of creepy stalker?
No, no, no. You shook your head quickly before you could spiral down this line of thinking or you’d make a wreck of yourself. You needed to get a grip before your fear kicked Jonathan’s protective instincts into overdrive.
You forced yourself to stand up, wincing as the chair’s legs scraped against the tile. The movement sent one of the pictures fluttering to the ground. You watched yourself fall for a long, long moment.
“…how did you say you got these photos, again?” If you were looking at Jonathan’s face as you asked, maybe you would have seen a flicker of a strange expression cross his face, but you were still transfixed by the multitude of your likenesses staring back up at you. When his words came out, they were calm. Measured, as steadied as if he knew the answer by heart.
“I have a classmate taking photography classes. He approached me earlier today, asking me if I’d taken ‘all those photos’ with your permission, said he recognized you from our walks together. Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about until he showed me…” he gestured mutely to the table.
“I didn’t want to believe it at first, that someone had been doing this to you and I wasn’t there to stop them. I know your friend is majoring in photography, so I asked him if this was some kind of strange project you were helping with, and he laughed it off and said it was. Of course, that didn’t feel right–I’m sure you would have said something to me if that was the case–so I went to you, just to make sure. And what do you know?” he smiled halfheartedly, though there was an undercurrent of anger in it.
“He’s a liar. Who knows how many of your friends are cooperating with him? Honey, some of these are from inside your house. You’re asleep in this one! You ca–”
“Jonathan, that’s enough!”
You hadn’t meant to raise your voice, but the stress of the last few minutes has been getting to you. Jonathan flinched back as if he’d been burned, but his words were already taking root in your thoughts.
What if people were helping him? Didn’t your mom even say the two of you would make a great couple when she visited you last month? Even if he didn’t make a copy of your key, could he have gotten your housemate to let him in? Had he been complaining about Jonathan because he was hoping to drive a wedge between the two of you, because he wanted to take Jonathan’s place?
Jonathan hovered uncertainly as you paced, clearly wanting to step in and comfort you but probably worried you were going to lash out again. You could be an asshole like that, you guessed.
The headache, which had started as an annoying throb behind your temples, was now threatening to turn into a full-blown migraine. You thought halfheartedly about more water, but you were just tired. Just tired. This was all too much.
“…I need to nap. Maybe if I sleep on this I’ll know what to do.”
Jonathan brightened, relieved that you were talking again. “Sure! I’ll of course be here to make sure nothing happens, I can wait in the kitchen if need be.”
You thought about sleeping in your bedroom, the room someone invaded and menaced you, probably more than once, where you would have kept sleeping peacefully if Jonathan hadn’t stepped in by pure luck. It made your stomach turn.
“Then you can sleep at my place,” Jonathan immediately offered, “we don’t have to tell anyone you’re there. Your friend–”
“I still don’t believe he’s the one behind this,” you interrupted firmly, “but even if he is, maybe he had some kind of reason. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.” You saw him open his mouth and start to protest.
“You’ll be there with me, Jonathan. I just…want to hear it from him. I want to know without a doubt that he did this, even if he had some twisted reason to think it was okay. I won’t feel safe until I do.”
Jonathan sighed deeply, but knew better than to argue. He liked to think of himself as your protector, but truth be told you were just as strong-willed as he was about some things. He put his hand on your shoulder as he guided you out of the room, towards his waiting car and beyond.
It was worth it to save all those photos, Jonathan mused as he glanced at you dozing off in his passenger seat. You were going to stay at his house (not that you knew it yet), and you understood that the interloper was only trying to take you from him. You still wanted to meet him for whatever reason, but he could take care of that, too.
It’s not uncommon for stalkers to turn violent if their target gets away from him, and Jonathan is a strong man. It would be easy to overpower your friend. He’ll protect you. He’ll keep you safe. It was all that mattered to him.
And when you saw the rest of his photos, you’d know that too.