I guess I'd rather observe people then, you know—"

"—Talk to them?"

... ... ...

"He has an eye for photography," the high school art teacher told his mother while she mentally calculated what it would take to get him a decent camera from the pawn shop. It wasn't inaccurate but it wasn't the whole truth either. What Jonathan really had was an eye for people.

He got them. He looked quickly through their pretenses and well maintained images and saw them for who they really were. And often, far too often, he didn't like what he found. A father who was only interested in him if he shared the father's interests and never the other way around. Classmates who prided themselves on their own individuality and yet attacked anything truly unique as though it was a threat to their very existence. Adults who claimed moral authority but did what was easy far more frequently than what was right. The insecurity, hypocrisy and selfishness he saw on the inside made him hate the perfectly crafted and polished exteriors.

He used his camera to see through the bullshit like a set of X-ray glasses advertised in the back of comic books. He caught people at their most real, their most vulnerable. And while he used his camera lens to peer into someone else's soul, he took advantage of the fact that a camera is not a two way window. The convenient thing about being behind the camera revealing to vulnerability of others is that it prevents the photographer from being in front of the camera, from being exposed himself. Not that anyone actually made an effort to coax Jonathan Byers out from behind the camera or to reveal himself to them. He was widely written off as pretentious at best and creepy at worst. Even in a school as small as Hawkins High School, there were many in his class who simply didn't see him, preferring to ignore the inconvenience of his existence. And if he were being honest, the feeling was mutual. It was far easier for Jonathan to write off the vast majority than to sort out who was and was not worth the risk of exposure.

Until his little brother vanished.

Then, all of a sudden, Jonathan Byers became visible. Noticeable. Interesting, albeit in a very unflattering cloud of suspicion sort of way. He also needed an ally which was a new and threatening prospect unto itself. It's funny how the possibility of the world ending has a way of inspiring personal growth. Equally funny how when the possibility of the world ending abates, all anyone wants to do is to return to normal, to comfort, to familiarity. And this is how, once the dust settled enough for him to try to see beyond his own family, Jonathan found himself sitting on the outside looking in at his ally who had just gifted him his favorite tool for keeping everyone else at a safe distance: a camera.

It didn't matter, he convinced himself. He got his little brother back and that was all he wanted, right? And she had what she wanted...or at least who she wanted. It was better this way. Really.

"You want to skip fourth period?" She asked so lightly that she could not possibly understand that what she was really offering was a way out of the shadows of obscurity, an invitation. He was in. He didn't even need to know her plan, he just had to know that it came with the promise of the alliance he wouldn't admit he'd been missing. They learned a lot of things on that mission. That the gateway to hell was still open for business. That the people responsible were replaced with new people with no interest in taking responsibility. That without them, Barb's grieving parents would never get any closure.

That she had waited for him.

That a month was simultaneously too long and not long enough.

... ... ...

"Trust issues, right? Something to do with your dad."

Trust issues.

Jonathan did not have trust issues.

He wasn't the kid who carried around the scars of parental rejection, ever hopeful that maybe one day he'd be good enough for his own father to want him. Jonathan had rejected Lonnie because he decided the man wasn't worth his time, not the other way around.

Trust issues.

Jonathan didn't avoid other people because he didn't trust them, he avoided other people because he didn't like them. There was a difference. And why would he open himself up to people he didn't like? People who he already knew would reject him. That's not having trust issues, that's just good sense.

At least Nancy agreed with him. Who did Murray Bauman think he was, anyway? Assuming he knew them better than they knew themselves after only a few hours.

Trust issues.

He certainly wasn't keeping Nancy at arm's length. They were friends, that wasn't arm's length. Aside from his own mother and brother, he was closer to her than anyone. And besides, she moved on before he'd gotten his bearings, so it was pretty obvious what she wanted. Steve turned out to be...not as bad as he could have been, but still pretty shallow. Still heavily invested in the currency of his own popularity. And if that's what Nancy wanted, why should he open himself up to someone who picked someone who was so utterly unlike him? That's just self preservation.

Trust issues.

But then again...

...We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be...

Maybe it was easier to remain invisible. Maybe he stayed on the outside looking in because the outside was familiar. Maybe he'd become who he needed to be, instead of who he was.


A/N I quite enjoy that scene where Jonathan is on the pull out repeating "trust issues" to himself, wrapping his brain around the whole idea. I feel like it's a turning point for his character.

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Credited to Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night.

Because, hello, Jonathon.

Thanks for the feedback. These are short little pieces to write, which has been a fun change of pace. Now to decide who's next...

Additional note to My Secret Garden: I do have a tendency to get wrapped up, however, it was my husband who got me turned me onto Vonnegut back when we were dating. I plan on engraving "So it goes" on his gravestone.