"Let me hit you with a hypothetical, Gomie."
Steve Gomez leans forward and looks at his former partner with half-feigned interest.
"Alright, Schrader. Hit me."
"There's these two guys. We'll call them X and Y. I know them both – okay, or I've met them both. I know Y a lot better than X. I like Y a lot better than X. X is a bit of a pissant."
"Okay, I got you so far."
"I got a hunch about X. He's been in our… system, before, shall we say. So I decided I'd ride by his house and just see if I could see anything, like, plain sight, right?"
"This is still all hypothetical, right?"
"Totally hypothetical, Gomie."
"Okay. Keep going."
"So I ride by X's house one day and well, I see something I wish I hadn't seen. Hypothetically."
"Hypothetically speaking, like what? Something illegal?" Gomez asks, his eyes sparking slightly, being won over by curiosity.
"Not since the 60's, Gomie. What if I were to say that I ended up seeing X kissing Y?" Gomez raises an eyebrow. "And now I don't know what to do."
"Act like it never happened, man. Act like it never happened. Otherwise you'll never be able to look at Y the same way ever again."
"What if I don't know whether I can leave it alone?"
"Maybe you oughta start at the beginning, Schrader."
It was the fourth day after the DEA protection for Hank Schrader was lifted, the DEA having discovered that the cartel members who were supposed to be after Hank were, to a large extent, scattered in a pile south of the border.
Hank hadn't bought the cartel hit story for a second. It was Gus Fring's doing, he was sure of it, and his only regret was that someone else had gotten to Fring before he had managed to prove himself right. The fact that Fring had managed to somehow get blown up by a stroke victim in a wheelchair, Hank still couldn't wrap his mind around.
He only had two leads on the blue meth, what with Fring dead and Boetticher dead – though he couldn't help but think that the wheelchair bombing was some kind of revenge from beyond the grave by Boetticher. If he had any loyalists, that was – though he couldn't quite picture that rendition of "Major Tom" as cementing him as a force to be reckoned with in the drug world.
The two leads that were left were Brandon Mayhew and Jesse Pinkman. Hank couldn't imagine anyone trusting Mayhew with any important information, and that left Pinkman.
Who had dropped his charges against Hank the very day Hank had been shot.
Pinkman's house was still on Margo Place, a quiet house, the one Hank had run up to that day he'd completely lost his cool and – well, no danger of that happening again, he doubted he'd really be able to hobble his way over to Pinkman and catch him unawares.
Which left him spying on the kid in his handy-van, parked off in the shadows like a Peeping Tom or something.
At least he was saved from peeking in Pinkman's windows, as he was currently outside, a rake grasped in his fingers. He had a pretty, dark-haired Latina standing beside him, and both were watching a little boy, around six, run around and jump in a pile of leaves.
He never would've figured Pinkman for the paternal type. But there he was, a kind of maturity in his stance that Hank hadn't seen there before. It was jarring.
He drove away. There was nothing to learn there. Not that day.
"So X has got a girlfriend and kid?" Gomez asks. "Maybe the thing with Y isn't what you think, then."
"Well, it's not his kid," Hank qualifies, "He seems to care about them both, though. A lot. Let me continue."
"Okay, okay. This is me not interrupting. Proceed."
The second day, he figured he'd find out where Pinkman went when he went out. Maybe he'd stop off at some drug contact, some lead, however unlikely…
After all, as much as it was possible that he'd grown up and left it all behind, Hank didn't think that was the case. Not someone like Pinkman.
When Hank tailed Pinkman's car – a quiet car, definitely not the Monte Carlo of yesteryear but something way more tone down, which made him rethink the possibility that maybe, just maybe…
When he realized where Pinkman was getting off, he swallowed. Unless this was a pretty macabre meet, this was not a drug transaction.
Pinkman had pulled into the dirt road de facto parking lot for the Pascal Grove Cemetery.
He couldn't easily follow him inside, but after the coast was clear and Pinkman had returned to his car and driven off, Hank surveyed the relatively small grounds and found new flowers – the same, roses - laid upon two graves, Jane Margolis and Jennifer Ann Carlow.
Hank knew Jennifer Carlow was Pinkman's aunt – it had all been in his file, not so long ago – but… Jane Margolis, that name felt familiar, too.
"The air traffic controller's kid," Gomez cuts in. "She died of an overdose and he came back too soon and was distracted, right?"
"Yep, one and the same. Jane Margolis. She and X must have been… friends, maybe. More likely, an item."
"Okay, now, Hank, you're following the guy to a cemetery. Getting a little bit morbid now, don't ya think?"
"Well, I wish I'd stop there. I really do. But I'm not done yet."
On the sixth day after the DEA protection was lifted on Hank Schrader, he rode by Jesse Pinkman's house and parked off to the side again. This time, Pinkman was inside, but his blinds were open.
Hank started to feel a bit uncomfortable when he recognized a car parked next to his.
A newly-repaired Aztek.
It had been months since that whole showdown, since Pinkman had been suggested as the last possibility of someone who might know where Walt had wandered off to.
So why would…
Hank didn't get time to finish that thought, as Pinkman's form shifted and it became obvious that he wasn't in the house alone.
Walter White was with him.
His hands were on Jesse's shoulders, and he was pressing against him, seemingly with a fair amount of effort. He seemed to be helped, however, by the fact that Pinkman didn't seem to be resisting the shove; instead, he was moving with it, letting it happen.
Walt's mouth moved against Pinkman's and it looked as if he was almost biting the other man's lips. Pinkman was forced against some unseen object, maybe a table or cabinet, which pushed him directly in front of the window. It was his profile, at first, before he turned – too quickly, obviously there were hands behind him propelling him forward, but they were invisible to Hank's eye. Pinkman's face was pressed against the window a moment, before again invisible hands – Walter White's hands – shut the blinds. As they fell, Hank could see Pinkman's mouth form a little cry of protest (the blinds must have caught him on the head or back), as he moved back and disappeared from view. He also saw, rather noticed anew, the fist-shaped marks on Pinkman's face.
The ones that matched the marks that had been on Walt's face.
"You see, this guy, I thought he was in over his head, right? Y, I mean. With stuff like – gambling, you know, that kind of think. I thought maybe he couldn't pay a debt or got in a fight. But now I see – X and Y, they fought. They fought hard, this wasn't some roughhousing or some kinky shit, it's – I don't know. Mutual domestic violence, is that what it is?"
"I don't know, Schrader. So your friend is mixed up with this guy, X?"
"That's what I don't know, Gomie. X is a small guy, scrawny, right? But Y's a… never seen him fight. Didn't know he knew how. But now… I don't know."
"You don't know?"
Hank Schrader tilts his head to the side and swallows.
"I think it might be X who's in over his head."
Gomez looks at his partner and sighs.
"X is Pinkman, isn't it?"
"I don't think Jesse Pinkman wants you as his savior."
"No, he probably doesn't."
"I don't know what to tell you, Hank. Just leave it alone."
Hank curls his fingers into a fist.
"I'll do that. Thanks for letting me bounce that off you."
But he still doesn't quite know what he's going to do.