Afterglow

It's in the afterglow of a moment and the aftermath of what Gus has done that Walt kisses Jesse. It's not a passionate kiss, the kind he might have imagined if he had ever imagined kissing the younger man; instead, it's a soft, near-feathery kiss on the forehead.

Jesse twitches a little, shakes a little when Walt's lips graze his skin.

"Jesse," Walt breathes out, "Settle. You're safe now." Jesse relaxes under his touch, ever so slowly uncurls. Walt takes a deep breath, before he speaks again. "Do you think you need to go to the hospital?" He feels Jesse shake his head against Walt's chest. "Are you sure?"

"I'm fine. Just need to sleep."

"Would you let me look at you?" Jesse shakes his head again.

"No. Want to sleep."

"I know," Walt whispers, "But…"

"Thought you had a plan."

"Let's do this first," Walt replies, his voice all soft, consoling, a voice he hasn't used with Jesse since Jane's death. Jesse pauses, then slowly nods against him before carefully raising his head. He rises up on the bed and gingerly swings one leg to the floor, then the other.

Walt's eyes watch him, arms jot out like he's a child taking shaky first steps, ready to catch him if he stumbles.

He slowly lumbers along to the bathroom, feet carefully pressing against the tile. He's become barefoot at some point, though neither can recall when, and the balls of his feet slide along, square by square.

In the whitewash, too bright white light, Walt can see that Jesse looks works than he had thought he would. His face is peppered with new bruises, tacked over the ones that he had gotten from Walt himself.

"You want my shirt off?" Walt nods, and Jesse complies, wincing as he pulls off the dusty white shirt. His chest is marked with a few bruises as well, big purple ones, including one big red welt that Walt knows must have been the point of contact for the cattle prod. He shudders, not only remembering his own too recent experience with the prod, but realizing what else Gus' goons could have done with it. "You don't need to see the rest," Jesse murmurs, "Just some… a little bleeding," his voice lowers in embarrassment, "And this," he turns his head to the side, revealing a bite mark near the bottom of his neck. "That's it. I'm fine. No hospital. I have to go there tomorrow anyway. Make sure Brock's okay. Just gotta get my shit together for tomorrow." He swallows and grabs his shirt, pulls it back on and shivers.

"Let me get you some painkillers," Walt says, not replying to Jesse's statements. The younger man nods gratefully, watching as Walt moves past him and opens the medicine cabinet, grabs some Advil and a cup of water. He hands both to Jesse, who stares a moment before putting the pill in his mouth, taking a gulp of water, and swallowing.

"Okay, let's go back," Walt tells him, taking his hand and leading him towards the door. He pauses a moment, before looking back at the brutalized Jesse and realizing that Advil won't cut it.

"Wait," he says, more to himself than to Jesse, who is standing listlessly on his feet, not moving other than a light shake. Walt opens the door to the medicine cabinet again and retrieves an amber-colored bottle, pops off the lid and picks out a single white pill. "This is Vicodin… Be careful, it might make you a little out of it." Jesse quickly accepts the pill and another cup of water, nodding in thanks.

Walt reaches out and takes Jesse's hand again, leading him back to the bed. The smaller man snuggles up, clings tightly.

"Mr. White?" he mumbles.

"Yes, Jesse?"

"I don't think I'm…" Jesse pauses, and Walt assumes he's trying to figure the word, the phrase. "Reacting… to this… okay. I mean shouldn't I… I don't know… Not want to be touched?" He gestures to his other hand, which is still firmly wrapped around Walt's shoulder. "Shouldn't I be… I don't know… Flashbacking? Traumatized? I don't even remember it."

Walt gazes at him and reaches up, using the hand that Jesse isn't lying on top of (he's crushing it a little bit, Walt realizes, but it's just a dead arm, it'll be fine).

"I… don't know much about it," he begins. "Apart from training, through the school. But I think… whatever you've… got there, it's normal." Walt sighs. "What do you want me to tell you? That it's not your fault? That you're going to be okay?" Jesse glares at him, but doesn't move away.

"If that's true, then yeah, I guess," he fires back and shrugs. "I'm not some chick."

"Didn't say that you were."

"What I mean is… I don't need the clichés, yo. I just…" Jesse throws up his free hand and sighs. "My thinking's getting all jumbled up."

"The Vicodin's kicking in," Walt counsels, "Just relax."

Jesse whimpers slightly, the realization that he's losing what little control he was grasping on to apparent in his eyes.

"Keep talking," Walt prompts. "It's all right." Jesse looks up at him, swallows, and nods.

"D'you remember… that girl Christy? Morrison?"

Walt blinks.

"Not offhand…? Should I?"

"She was in our class. Your class," Jesse wiggles to the side a bit, and Walt gets his arm free, shakes off the pins and needles and tries not to wince as he does. Let Jesse tell his story, whatever the point is or isn't.

"My Chem class?" Walt inquires. Jesse nods.

"Sat in front of me. Something like this happened to her, they said – at least. She was real shaky, quiet, wouldn't talk to anyone. Afraid of guys. That's probably why you don't remember her, she was scared of you, too." Walt blinks, unable to imagine anyone afraid of him back then, what with his awkward brown hair and glasses, the whole look that he's shunned and looks back on with acute embarrassment. He can't hide his incredulity, and Jesse chuckles darkly.

"That's what I said. She… eventually talked to me. D'you… remember, I used to fold up… paper airplanes, and paper balls and toss them at the front of the class? Hit the board?"

"…Yeah," Walt replies, "At least, I always suspected that was you."

Jesse grins shakily, tears in his eyes.

"Well, I remember… the one day I just… decided, she ought to talk to me, stop looking at me like I was... I don't know. So I like… nudged her and she just… like, jumped, but I just… I don't know. I leaned in, said 'Hey, Christy, d'you think… that if I threw this from here, I could hit Mr. White?' And she looked at me and said, '…I don't know, maybe.' So I threw it… and it hit like, right above you, on the board." Walt resists asking if there's a point to this story. "And she turns around and goes, 'You missed!' and, like, smiles. And it was kinda the most awesome thing ever."

"So?" Walt inquires, "You think… what?" Jesse shrugs.

"I don't know. Just thought of it I guess."

"You'll be fine, Jesse."

Jesse doesn't answer. Instead, he asks, "What's your plan for Gus?"

"A bomb."

"How're we … gonna get him… to walk into a bomb?" Jesse inquires sleepily, curling up closer to Walt. A moment later, his eyes have slipped shut, and Walt slowly moves away from him, deciding that if he's going to make sure that Jesse hasn't sustained any lasting damage, now's the time. He briefly considers taking him to the hospital after all, but now… now there will be so many questions and now, no matter how anonymous they kept it there's the chance that Walt could be connected to Gus through this.

Walt's hit with the realization that Marie would know who to go to, who to call, she's versed with the whole medical community and could make sure that he got the best people working on him. But Jesse doesn't need that because Jesse is not hurt like that, he's fine, I'll make sure of that – my plan didn't backfire, it just hit a kink, just a bend in the road.

He won't allow himself to dwell more than a second or two on the possibility that Jesse or Brock – or, hell, both – could die. It's impossible. Odds are against it.

Jesse is breathing beneath him, and that's all that matters.

But what if it's the wrong call? Drop him at the hospital.

But he said he doesn't want…

He doesn't know what he wants.

He's in shock, talking nonsense about back when he was in your class. Drop him off. Or stay. Call Marie.

No, they're holed up at Hank's house and if Hank got wind…

Walt clenches his fingers, breathes deep, swallows. There's no right answer. There isn't.

He needs to kill Gus. That's the priority, isn't it? He needs to save his family before Gus strikes. He needs Jesse's help to do that. He needs to act now

He needs to save Jesse, he needs to make sure that he's okay, he needs to make sure that this time, after this tragedy, he actually gets help, some kind of help to glue together the splinters of his fragile mind.

His fingers act of their own accord, dart to the mantle and grasp the phone; he hits a number and waits for the ring. If it rings out, there's his decision made for him.

It doesn't.

"Walt?" Marie's voice. "When the hell are you getting done with the car wash and coming back here? You are so completely…"

"Marie."

"…What? Walt, what?"

"I need you to do something for me."

"Is it something that will get you into this house before you risk your life?"

No.

"I just need a number. And an address."