Chapter Six

Jesse's mind fluttered, a little like a butterfly that had been stripped of its wings. He was overwhelmed with memories, none of which he particularly wanted to touch on. He remembered how Tuco had beaten him, threatened him, and most of all that moment facing the sand, pleading with him, saying "I don't want to die…"

Again, he didn't want to die. Didn't want to waste away in this strange land. But at least Mr. White had a plan, or was at least pretending that he had one, which was certainly better than nothing.

The hotel room seemed way too hot all of a sudden. He grabbed his collar and tried to air himself out, gaining only annoyed looks from Mr. White and Gale as a response. Could Gale kiss Mr. White's ass just a little bit more? It seemed like he was trying to be his shadow on this whole damn trip, and Jesse was already irritated by it.

He wondered what the cartel would do when they finally came to get them. Jesse had seen way too many movies and could, unfortunately, come up with way too many possibilities. If they were going to start pulling fingernails or breaking knees, they could start with one of those other two assholes, because Jesse hadn't signed up for any of this. He should have just told Mr. White to get stuffed when he'd approached him at his house those months ago. Even jail would probably be preferable to whatever the hell was awaiting them.

His throat was chalky, and he mulled over all of his words before he finally spoke. But when he did, it didn't really sound any better.

"Uh, Mr. White? You got any ideas?"

Mr. White glared at him.

"I'm thinking, Jesse."

Jesse stuffed his hands into his lap and looked around the room, annoyed, but giving the older man a few more minutes.

"Well?"

"Yes, Jesse?" Mr. White hissed.

"You thought of anything good yet?"

He thought Mr. White was going to grab him by the neck when he stood up, and he slid his chair back preemptively.

"Perhaps, Jesse, I would be able to think of 'something good', as you so eloquently termed it, if you were to shut the fuck up."

"Hey!" Gale cut in, and Jesse rolled his eyes. "Arguing and bickering isn't going to get us out of here and home any quicker. You know, 'divide and conquer'? Seems like they're doing it pretty effectively to us, doesn't it?"

"Gale, let it go," Jesse murmured, "He does this all the time. This is the only way he knows how to operate. Just let him yell and he'll yell himself out and then things will get done."

"I think we'd probably get things done better if we all chipped in and had our ideas heard," Gale ventured.

Jesse buried his head in his hands. Gale really had selective hearing, didn't he? Mr. White didn't want to hear his ideas, he wanted to come up with all the ideas and then have the other two of them stare in awe at him. He probably also wanted them to pat him on the back and tell him how smart he was, but Jesse didn't have the effort. He just wanted to go home, smoke some weed, and go to bed.

In fact, Jesse wanted to do just about anything other than go cook for a bunch of cartel chemists and probably end up dead. Even going back to hang out with his parents seemed preferable to that…

"Why don't we just do what we said we were going to do," Mr. White hissed, "One of you two teach them. My money is on Gale because Jesse…" He just shook his head and Jesse rolled his eyes. Even in the middle of death-defying situations, hell, especially in the middle of death-defying situations, Mr. White couldn't ever leave him alone.

Maybe that was how he stayed so calm, though. So above it all. Maybe he told himself that no matter how dour the situation might get, at the end of the day he could curl into his bed and tell himself that he was Mr. White, that he was smart, that he certainly was not dumb and unloved and pathetic like Jesse was.

But Jesse had to wonder how loved Mr. White was, too – if things were as bad with his family as they seemed, after all, had he lost the reason he was here in the first place?

He gazed over at Gale. On the topic of love, that seemed to be an issue, too; Gale obviously had hearts in his eyes for Mr. White. For the life of Jesse, he couldn't see why. Mr. White was just an angry old jerk, a smart one but really, nothing more, nothing less. He had saved Jesse's life and Jesse's owed him that but… he didn't know if there was something more to all of it than that. How could Gale moon over him so much without even really knowing the man? Jesse knew him, and Jesse knew that it was complicated. Really complicated.

Mr. White had an uncanny ability to be everything and nothing all at once, to be Jesse's savior at the same time as he was everything that Jesse wished he never had to see again. He knew that Mr. White would get them out of this, and just the same he knew there'd be something in it that would make him reaffirm one of those promises to never see the man again, the promise that he seemed so utterly unable to keep. So why, why the hell would Gale want that? Why would he ask for that?

A sharp knock and a barrage of Spanish cut Jesse out of his thoughts. He turned to Gale, feeling like someone had stuffed cotton in his ears and he could no longer hear a word but through the older man's intervention. He hated it; couldn't wait to be back in goddamned America where he at least sort of knew what was going on.

"They said…" Gale began, "They said they're ready, and if we're not… then we're dead men."