A/N: Based on a prompt.
There is a difference between knowing something and believing it. One can know something and simply push it to the back of their mind, quiet that little voice that insists upon the truth. Many a cuckold spouse has known of their love's infidelities, and simply washed that knowledge away with excuses and justifications, not ready to acknowledge the reality.
This can happen until someone is presented with what is undeniably cold, hard proof. Some can deny it even then.
Jesse Pinkman had lived in such a state of denial for three months now. Three months since the death of Gus, which had only just ceased being plastered all over the news every ten minutes. It had now been replaced by what may have been a racially motivated police shooting in Arizona, and Jesse was thankful – he thought that if he saw the footage of the aftermath of the blast again, he might not be able to take it.
His life was a simple one these days. He had left behind the criminal life, taken what money he had, sold his home (back to his parents, who were tenuously willing to pay) and moved in to a little two-story row-home with Andrea and Brock, one with a big oak tree in the front yard and a garden in the back.
Other than to sell them the house, he hadn't spoken to his parents, but they actually lived closer now than they had – just down the road, and a passerby couldn't really tell much difference between the two houses. No raucous parties erupted from Jesse's new residence, nor did random people pull up at all hours of the night to make illicit purchases.
If Jesse's plan was to move into legitimate life, he had in fact, over-succeeded.
He tried not to think about Mr. White and what the man was up to, now – though these days, Heisenberg was a better name for him. Maybe Mr. White himself had ceased to exist, as whenever Jesse happened to catch a whiff of the name in whispered conversation, it was being said that Heisenberg had become the most sought-after drug lord in the Southwest. Bigger than Gus. Scarier than Tuco. The descriptions bared little resemblance to the glasses-wearing nerd who'd chewed Jesse out for not doing his homework long ago.
Jesse couldn't stop his thoughts from wandering to his ex-partner, sometimes, as much as he tried to fit into that mold he'd perfected, that suburban life he now typified. But he found himself only hoping the man was safe.
The protectiveness, the care was still there, though it was increasingly unlikely that the other man would in any way need it. People weren't scared for him, they were scared of him – except Jesse.
He had let Jesse go. Maybe he had realized that he couldn't have stayed a second longer with him, but it still must have felt like a betrayal to the man.
Yet he had let him go. Jesse was grateful. He hadn't even tried to convince him to stay, not really.
On this particular day, Jesse was busying himself about, cleaning the house while Andrea was at work (some waitressing gig, these days, though it was more out of a want to contribute than a necessity) and Brock was at school. Domestic bliss.
Three bedrooms – Jesse got the vacuum out of the closet, plugged it in and geared it up. He supposed that back in the day they would have insisted that this kind of thing fall to Andrea, but with Jesse's early retirement, he had to do something all day.
Otherwise his mind would wander and he'd go stir-crazy.
He vacuumed through he and Andrea's room, then went through Brock's – his gaze lingered against the pile of Hot Wheels cars, a little track and a pile of video games. Brock was still so innocent, despite all that had happened three months ago; he didn't know, couldn't know that Jesse had thought he'd been poisoned with something that had no antidote, that Jesse had been steeling himself to lose the boy forever and wondering whether he ought to shoot himself in the head or just take poison himself.
Brock was alive, very much alive and this room was evidence of it, in all its disarray and calamity. Jesse nearly tripped over a toy car and an action figure, but he smiled at it. Brock was just a normal kid. A normal, healthy kid these days.
He crouched down and picked up a figure of Spiderman, lifted it up and bent the arms, the legs, remembering how he used to have the same kind of guys when he was a kid. Back when the world was easily cut into good and bad. When you knew which side you ought to root for.
He slowly put Spiderman back down on Brock's night-table and picked up the rest of the toys, cleared them off the floor but put them easily within reach.
He loved them both. They were his family, more than his parents and brother had ever been.
But maybe not as much as Mr. White had been.
He chased the thought; it was absurd. What was that going to help, thinking like that? He was done with all of that shit, hopefully forever. He had a new life. And though he'd feared that it would fill him with boredom, it had filled him with peace instead. It was a way of making amends, not erasing but repairing the things he had done.
Jesse finished cleaning Brock's room and walked downstairs; he decided he'd check the yard and see if it needed mowing. He let himself out through the latch on the back door, walked down the concrete steps and gazed around. A couple little flowers, weeds mainly, had sprouted at the far side of the yard, he'd have to –
A little white flower was right next to him, poking out, taunting him. He recognized it. He couldn't not; he'd googled that horrible plant once he'd gotten home, made sure he knew what it looked like.
And then something clicked – white, the color of the…
It had been him all along.
"Jesse? Mr. Pinkman?"
A voice streamed in, along with soft white light. Jesse finished opening his eyes and tried to look around, but his head felt too heavy to move.
"Do you know where you are?"
Jesse managed to shake his head.
"You're in a hospital. Do you remember what happened before you got here?"
He found his voice.
"Your girlfriend brought you in. She said that when she came home, you were in a corner and wouldn't move or speak. Do you remember that?"
"Do you remember what happened before that?"
Jesse swallowed hard. That he remembered. Realizing that Mr. White had poisoned Brock. But nothing after that.
"Not really." It hurt to talk. His throat felt like it had been rubbed raw.
"When your girlfriend tried to rouse you, you started screaming," the voice told him. Jesse managed to turn his head and saw that the speaker was a tall, black woman, probably in her mid-thirties. She was slim and well-dressed, and in better circumstances Jesse would probably feel that she was hot.
"Did I scare Brock?" he asked.
The woman shook her head.
"Brock was still at school. But let's talk about Brock. Was it something to do with him that happened before this started?"
Jesse closed his eyes and shook his head. He wouldn't betray Mr. White to these people. Even if they couldn't legally tell anybody or whatever he had heard about therapists.
"No. Just as long as he's okay."
"You seem to love Brock very much, Jesse."
The woman sighed out.
"My name is Dr. Parker. I'm going to be working with you in the coming days, if you choose to stay here."
"I can leave?" Jesse whispered.
"You can. You're not a direct threat to yourself or others. Legally we cannot hold you for more than seventy-two hours. However, I think you should stay. We can help you."
Jesse's head was floating. He couldn't quite figure it out, didn't know what to say.
It was easier than trying to pick it up and go home, to try and explain to Andrea why he had snapped. Better than maybe snapping again, because it couldn't have simply been that realization but the sum total of all the horror that had been raining down on his psyche for months now.
Waking up next to Jane. Shooting Gale. Tuco. The ATM. None of it allowed him to rest.
He wondered if Andrea would even want to see him again after this. She must have been terrified. Hatred of himself coursed through his veins, and he found that odd, considering that Mr. White should have been the one he was angry at. But he couldn't even find the effort.
He should want to kill the other man, make him pay.
But he just wanted to die, himself.
So many qualifiers. He wouldn't have done it if Jesse weren't so pathetic, so hopeless, needing to be conned into turning against an evil man like Gus. So eager to be wanted he would join such a man.
It was Jesse's fault, really.
He curled up, shaking, and swallowed hard.
"I need to stay."
Walter White, known these days as Heisenberg, opened one door of his black Escalade and stepped out on to the curb. It was the right place. Saul had given him the correct information.
He could still usually count on Saul for such things. There were so few people that he could truly count on these days.
He pressed on the door and allowed it to open, momentarily rethinking his appearance here. Maybe it was best that he ignore Jesse's plight entirely, stay out of his life and give him space.
But no; Walt needed this. It was perhaps the last thing that let him remain "Walt" for any longer. He wanted the illusion of that, even if it were no longer a reality.
Skyler had taken the kids and left. He'd moved from the condo into a nicer home, not flashy but large and stable. He had the beginnings of a serious operation these days – enforcers and three levels of street dealers, impossible to be traced back to him.
He had a young Eastern European girlfriend who stayed over nights and, though she seemed to be only interested in the money, made her presence worth Walt's while.
But he didn't have Jesse.
And that made everything so bittersweet.
He needed to talk to him, needed to… maybe assure himself that it wasn't his fault that Jesse was in this place, though he knew that it was. Jesse's life had been, by comparison, normal and safe before he'd come along.
Walt had destroyed Jesse. He'd never meant to, but maybe what was worse was that he hadn't cared. He had been too busy running down the next lead.
Now that he was doing it alone, maybe it had given him time to reflect.
Jesse had been in his corner for so long, even when he no longer had the right to ask it of him.
It was time for him to at least try to repay the favor.
"I'm here to visit Jesse Pinkman," he told the pretty red-head at the front desk.
"Sure. And your name is?"
"Walter White." He kept his voice down. Best to continue to be cautious.
"I'll let Dr. Parker know. She's in charge of Mr. Pinkman's care. Please have a seat." Walt almost snorted at hearing Jesse called "Mr. Pinkman" for the first time in his life. Eventually, however, he moved back and sat, looking around at the bleached white walls and wondering how exactly they expected anyone to get better in this place. It's so clinical, so stifling, so unlike everything Jesse is.
Or, Walt had to amend sadly, Jesse was. He didn't really know how Jesse "is", anymore.
He crossed his hands together in his lap and waited patiently for the red-head to call his name. When she did, he was almost surprised – did Jesse even actually want to see him? He was gripped with a fear he hadn't felt in… in the past year.
When he rose and walked into Jesse's room, it felt a little as if he was visiting him in jail. Jesse was bedraggled, eyes wide and almost non-responsive.
"Hey," Walt called, putting on the soft voice, the voice that made him melt from Heisenberg through past Walt into Mr. White, the kindly teacher who just wanted Jesse to do better. But had that ever even been him, or just a façade he'd put on because that had been what Jesse had wanted to see? What he needed to see?
"You poisoned Brock." Jesse's voice was low. Quiet.
Well, the facades were down, now. The curtains had all fallen. Jesse could see him for who he was, and it filled him with a mix of dread and relief. He didn't have to pretend, now.
"It was all I could think of to do, Jesse." He paused. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you."
"Didn't want to hurt me?" He should have been yelling the words, but they came out emotionlessly. "Didn't want to hurt me so you poisoned…" Jesse trailed off, as if not sure what to call Brock, not sure what Brock was to him.
"I just needed you to turn against Gus," Walt told him quietly. "He had you under his spell. He'd convinced you that I was the enemy. I needed… you to see how evil he could be."
"By doing something evil yourself?" Jesse blinked, like he almost saw the logic in it all, but didn't want to.
"I knew he wouldn't die, Jesse. You have to believe me. I would never do that to you."
"Are you sure?" Jesse murmured. "I can't… I don't know how I can face them, now."
Walt locked eyes with him.
"What do you mean? You didn't do anything at all."
"But it was because of me. Brock got hurt because of me."
"No. It was me. My own actions. Jesse… You have got to get past this. It's too late for me. I'm in this… And I'm in it until the end, which for me is coming sooner rather than later. But you can put this behind you."
"How?" Jesse asked. His voice was barely above a whisper. "How do I put this behind me? And Gale? Jane?"
"All of that was me," Walt started, then corrected, "Because you got mixed up with me."
Jesse shook his head.
"It's all my fault." His voice was so quiet. Walt felt his heart wrench in regret, something he hadn't felt in so long. This was the boy he'd taken under his wing. The boy he loved as a son. What could he do to save him?
Maybe the best thing, maybe the only answer, was to walk away entirely. Leave Jesse to figure out everything on his own and forge a new life for himself. Once he got out of here, he could live with Andrea and Brock. But hadn't that been his plan before Jesse's breakdown? And that hadn't worked.
Maybe he should stay. Take care of Jesse through this. It wasn't as if he could trust Andrea to do it. What did he know about her, anyway? She was just a little girl. She'd screw it up.
He couldn't decide which of those was the right answer, but there had to be a right answer. There was always a failsafe, a trap door and a way out. He refused to accept otherwise. Heisenberg never gave up.
"Not your fault, Jesse. Let these people help you, okay? It's all going to be all right."
"I can't tell them the truth."
"You can tell them about blaming yourself for some of this. They can remind you that it's not your fault."
"And then what?" Jesse's voice was barely audible, now.
"You go back to Andrea and to Brock. You stay with her. Raise a family."
"What about you?"
Walt laughed bitterly.
"Don't worry about me, Jesse. I'll be just fine."
"I mean," Jesse's voice got a little louder, "What about your family? Did they… did everything eventually work out all right? Do you think Andrea could ever, you know, know, and still… still want to be around me?"
Walt's head swam with images of Skyler's final leaving. How she'd thrown it all in his face, taken the kids, left him, and how really by that point, he hadn't even really cared.
He looked over at Jesse, smiled, and said, "Sure. Everything's fine." He reached out and tapped Jesse on the shoulder. "Just get better. Everything will be all right."
He rose and turned, walking back down through the hall and out to his car. The black hat was sitting in the front seat, and as he climbed in, he picked it up and placed it back on his head before driving away.