"Astrophysicists estimate that the hyper-matter reactor would need about ten to the thirty-second joules of energy to destroy a planet the size of Earth," Gale's saying, shadowing Walt by the drip coffee machine. "So, since it took nineteen years to build the first Death Star—"

Walt has to stop him, for Gale's own sake; he's been blathering on about the physiology of Wookies and the aerodynamics of the Death Star for almost an hour now. It's embarrassing for everyone involved in this conversation. "Gale, please stop talking."

He looks a lot like a puppy that's just been scolded for shitting on the carpet. This is exactly why Walt doesn't make a habit out of quelling Gale's conversational tangents. He's just so damn enthusiastic; it's hard not to just let him ramble until he tires himself out.

"This isn't interesting?" Gale asks in a voice that's way too pathetic to come out of a grown man. "I thought with your knowledge of chemistry, you'd—"

"Hypothesize about its application in a fictional universe?"

Gale shrugs, like he has no idea what's wrong with that sentence at all.

Walt sighs. Why didn't he tell Gus to go screw himself when the guy practically begged Walt to come work at his coffee shop? Probably because Gus knows the way to Walt's heart is through lavish compliments and praise. Walt always knew his ego would be the death of him, but between death and having his ear talked off by Gale Boetticher, well, if he's dead he won't have to hear any more diatribes about the preemptive cancellation of Firefly.

Gus emerges from the back room, frowning at his phone like the gadget has disappointed him in the worst of ways. "Mike says Tuco's queue is out the door." Walt doesn't need to turn around to see that their own shop is embarrassingly empty, save for Saul Goodman seated in the cushy armchair near the front door.

"It's those damn cinnamon rolls," Saul offers without bothering to look up from his Macbook. "They're like candy-coated crack."

Walt shoots him a glare. "Sleeping with the enemy, Saul?"

"Or so I've heard," Saul says with an exaggerated shrug. "From, y'know, people. They come into my office and they say things. I can't control it."

Tuco Salamanca owns the coffee shop—and bakery—a few blocks down named Vamonos Coffee. Walt always thought that was a fucking stupid name, because it basically only advertises them as faster. Why not boast about the quality of the coffee or even advertise it as some sort of healthy alternative? Nope. Faster.

Because Los Frijoles Saltarines is so much classier.

"You have a terrible personality for customer service, by the way," Saul tells Walt around a bite of blueberry muffin. "Why did Gus hire you?" Saul looks at Gus. "Why did you hire him?"

"Have you tasted the coffee?" Gus supplies with a bit of sass.

Saul makes an appraising face at his steaming vanilla latte. "Yeah, I guess I can't complain when the coffee's this good."

In a failed attempt to be humble, Walt says, "If you don't compliment the muffins, you'll hurt Gale's feelings."

Gale grins at Walt. Gus chuckles and surreptitiously nudges Walt with his elbow while Gale's watching Saul attempt to find something nice to say about his baking skills. Walt just shakes his head, because, no, Gus, he's not going to date Gale, stop trying to make this happen.

Gus disappears into his office as the bell on top of the front door chimes. Walt doesn't pay much attention—Gale's usually the one who handles orders due to Walt's questionable customer service skills—until a vaguely familiar voice calls out, "Mr. White?"

Walt turns around, greeted with the crooked smile and big blue eyes of the ultimate test of his patience: Jesse Pinkman.

The first thing Walt notices is how time has been unfairly good to Jesse; five years or so have passed since they've seen each other, and Jesse's taller, leaner, more attractive than he has any right to be, and Walt hates him a little bit for it.

Jesse smiles wider, his mouth agape. He jogs up to the counter. "No way! You're makin' coffee now?"

Gale whirls around to look at Walt. "You know him?"

"We've met," he says through his teeth. Walt's worked here a couple months, and he's had his share of once-students express surprise at his new, uh, vocation, but only Jesse would have the nerve to be smug about it.

"He taught me chemistry back in high school," Jesse supplies to an eager Gale. "Like, way back." Jesse looks at Walt again with that stupid smug grin on his face, as if he's won some sort of unspoken war between them. "Did you get fired from Wynne?"

"Are you going to order something or not?" Walt growls.

Jesse stares up at the chalkboard displaying the daily specials, immune to the slow boil of Walt's anger. "Your handwriting blows, dude," he says with a teasing sort of smile.

Gale makes a pained noise of distress.

"Your memory blows, dude," Walt snarks back. "That's not my handwriting."

Jesse startles up straight, his cheeks flushing red as he shoves a hand through his unruly hair and risks a glance at Gale. "Oh, shit, uh, sorry, dude, I was just messin' with—I didn't know you—sorry."

Walt resists the urge to take comfort in humiliating Jesse. "Are you going to order something or insult more of our employees?"

Jesse scowls as if sizing him up before he says, "Mint chocolate frap," in a quiet, defeated voice.

"You want to specify a size?"

"Still a hard-ass, huh?"

Walt swallows a noise in his throat from the idea of Jesse thinking about his ass.

"Sixteen," Jesse mumbles. He pays with wrinkled bills and exact change, and Gale's already roped him into a one-sided conversation about Star Trek when Walt hands his drink over.

"Enjoy." Walt tries his damndest not to look directly at Jesse's stupidly blue eyes lest his brain go to places it shouldn't.

Jesse nods, looks like he wants to say something more and walks out. Walt feels the crawl of electricity over his skin. Of course he goes for the kid half his age who's ridiculously out of his league in the looks department. Of course.

Un-fucking-believable.

#

Jesse comes back the next day with a formidable posse—Badger and Skinny Pete—as he rushes inside and up to the counter. "Yo, this is the dude I was telling you about!" Jesse raves, but he's referring to Gale this time, not Walt. "Tell him about your Star Trek episode!" he says to his crew, and they waste no time with that. Gale actually looks interested; Walt had no idea anyone else on the planet could match Gale's enthusiasm in that department.

Jesse saunters up to the other side of the bar where Walt's trying to appear disinterested by wiping down the countertop. "So, you really work here, huh? I didn't step into an alternate universe yesterday?"

"You seem surprised." Mr. Obvious.

Jesse shrugs in a way that makes him look like the awkward teenager Walt used to know. "It's just weird. I mean, what makes a sixty-year-old dude quit his job and suddenly decide to make coffee?"

"I'm fifty," Walt says, with dignity. Because that's so much better.

"Whatever."

Walt decides a little more honesty won't hurt. "It pays better."

"Don't you have, like, a degree and shit?"

"There's a fair amount of chemistry involved. The perfect mix of coffee grounds, milk, sugar, whipped cream..."

Jesse's watching him like he's trying to unearth some hidden meaning in his words. "So you ditched teaching for coffee?"

"It doesn't sound any less ridiculous when you say it out loud. Are you going to order something or did you come here to bother me and put my barista out of commission?" Gale's still chatting up a storm with Skinny Pete and Badger as he heads over to the espresso machine.

"Are you always such a dick to your customers?"

"When they're particularly obnoxious, yes."

"Why can't you be more like Gale? Y'know, nice, personable, pleasant to be around?"

Walt is having absolutely none of Jesse's shit today. "Order. Now."

Jesse sighs out a breath, like Walt's attitude is giving him an ulcer. "Double chocolate frap. Eight." Then, before Walt can even get a foot away from the counter: "And if you spit in it, I'll call health inspection on your ass." Walt rolls his eyes at the threat; as if Hank Schrader needs provocation to come in here and antagonize him.

"How can you drink these in the fall?" Walt asks, legitimately curious when he shoves Jesse's drink at him.

Jesse just shrugs, smirks in a way that's dangerously flirtatious before grabbing his drink and leaving with his friends.

Walt only just now notices that Jesse's a dollar short this time.

#

"So, who's the kid?" Gus asks on a particularly slow Thursday night as they're closing up.

"What kid?"

"The one who poses quite a challenge to your interpersonal skills."

"You mean Jesse?"

Gus nods. "He seems to like you."

"We have a tumultuous rapport," Walt says, because there's no way he's using the words "friendship" or "relationship" in relation to Jesse Pinkman. "What are you trying to say, Gus?"

Gus spreads his hands. "I'm merely making an observation."

"Like your observations with Gale?" Walt mutters.

"A blind, deaf man on the moon could make those same observations."

Gale's sweeping the floor and whistling a tune to himself, oblivious to their gossip. "He's not my type," Walt murmurs, and Gus lifts his eyebrows in that appraising way of his.

"Too eager?" Gus says, as if making notes on some sort of internal checklist. Oh God, does he have a checklist?

"He's just not my type." Walt feels like that's worth repeating for some reason. "I'm classical, he's...jazz."

Gus just nods like he's appending his mental checklist. Walt really needs to find out at some point if Gus actually has a checklist. Because that's not reassuring at all.