Warning: Character death.
Jesse was sleeping when his phone woke him up. It played some rap song – he'd liked the sound of it when he had chosen it to be the "unknown caller" ringtone, but other than that the chorus was something about "riding around and getting it", he couldn't recall the artist or the name of the song.
And given that he only rarely got calls from unknown callers, he hadn't really had a reason to research it and find out.
He clumsily grabbed his phone off the night table and opened it, looking at the number to see if it rang any kind of bell. It was a New Mexico number, at least – he had had the occasional call for some guy who used to have his number and had never paid his college library fines, but that had been an 800 number.
"Uh, hello," he mumbled as he pressed the "call" button.
A voice leapt out at him, hurried and seeming only vaguely familiar. The voice seemed to be a female one, he could catch that much.
"Is this Jesse Pinkman?"
"Uh, yeah it is. Who's calling?"
The response was mumbled and hard to make out, like somebody had their hand on the speaker.
"Hello?" Jesse repeated. "Who's this?"
He nearly dropped the phone. That goddamned woman again. Couldn't she leave him alone? His mind raced to try and remember how much Mr. White had said she knew. He honestly hadn't paid all that much attention; it seemed as if she had found out, at least a little bit – otherwise, why would Mr. White have moved out of his house?
But did she know about Jesse?
He couldn't remember.
"Hello?" Skyler's voice called again.
"Oh. Hey, yeah," Jesse responded, trying desperately to play it cool. "What do you need?"
"Have you seen Walt?"
Jesse swallowed. He had assumed the man had been back home, or dealing with the business end of things, or… well, something. When had been the last time he'd seen Mr. White? Three or four days ago – not that long.
"Not since Monday," he replied. "How come?"
He could hear Skyler's voice go an octave higher when she replied.
"Because I keep getting… these calls. Hang up calls, like they're checking to see who answers."
"Mr. White's having an affair?" Jesse suggested. "Could be just some girl who wants to talk to him."
He could hear the exasperation in Skyler's response.
"I caught someone speaking Spanish in the background on one of them. And what sounded like… to me… well, the sound of, uh, like… a gun's slide being raked."
It was all she needed to say. Jesse's voice caught in his throat.
"Mrs. White… Uh, listen… Stay put. Stay indoors, I…"
"Can you find my husband?"
Jesse grabbed his fingers with his other hand and pulled them back until they nearly snapped.
"I don't know where he is," he said honestly. "I could ride by his condo but… I don't know."
"What am I supposed to do?"
"Call your brother-in-law? Say you're getting… I don't know, harassing calls? Some creepy guy hanging around?"
"He's out of town with my son."
Jesse dragged his hand down his face and thought. There was no way Mr. White would forgive him if he just told her to figure it out on her own, as much as that was what he wanted to do, really wanted to do. This had so much potential to get him caught, go horribly wrong, or make Mr. White somehow fly off the handle at him.
"Listen, give me ten minutes and I'll come over there."
There. He'd said it. He had made his bed and was ready to lie in it… well, not literally. Not for a long time.
"I'll be waiting," Skyler replied, and then he heard the dial tone.
Why was he doing this again? He hadn't exactly promised to protect Mr. White's family. He had promised that they would get his share of the money if he died. But that was something different, something easy – anyone could drop off a bag of money on a doorstep with a note explaining the whole damn thing. Considering Jesse knew how to spell correctly, none of that was particularly a challenge.
But riding into his potential death – if this was what he was afraid it was – was something else entirely.
Yet, also something he had to do, despite the consequences. There really was no other choice.
He found himself in the car, driving, detached and hoping only that he wouldn't be too late. Where the hell was Mr. White? What the hell would he do if Jesse failed?
Jesse couldn't fail.
Which brought up the other possibility – that Mr. White was going to stop by to check on his family and find the three of them piled on top of each other, lifeless and dead.
Not going to happen. He was stronger than that. He knew that now.
Somehow, he arrived at Mr. White's house. There was something pulling him there, some sense of connection that he couldn't have put into words even if he had tried.
He knocked on the door, and it opened almost immediately. Skyler White was standing there; he tried to think back to if he had ever seen her before the confrontation outside his house that one day, but he came up short. It wasn't as if he had nosed around into his high school teachers' family lives.
"Let me in, quick," Jesse mumbled, pushing his way through the door and getting inside. He moved his hand to his jacket, making sure that his gun was still safely tucked away in his inside pocket and ready to be drawn if necessary. It was. A kind of heat radiated off of it, as if reminding Jesse that tonight could be the night that he took a third life. Or a fourth, fifth, sixth. He wondered at what number people stopped counting.
He wondered at which number Mr. White had stopped counting.
Skyler seemed unsure of what to say to Jesse once he was actually inside.
"I… Thank you. It could be nothing." But that sounded more like wishful thinking, and Jesse shook his head.
"No, you were right to call me. Just in case." He swallowed and looked around. "Where's your daughter?"
"Holly's asleep in her room," Skyler told him. "Why?"
"We should all get in the same spot. Just to be safe," he counseled. The idea of some cartel madman breaking in and going for whoever was closest filled his mind, and he shook it off. "Let's lock the door – do you have deadbolts?" He gazed over at the door to answer his own question, and found that luckily enough, they did. "We should bring her down, and…" He paused, trying to figure out if someone would be able to hear a baby's cry from outside. "No, we should go up. Not bother her any more than necessary. Maybe she can sleep through this." He was overwhelmed with a need to keep all of this from the little girl, even though she wouldn't understand what she was seeing or hearing; there was a feeling that if she did, it would burrow deep inside of her and come out someday.
Like what happened to Dexter, Jesse added in his head. That was messed up. And also just a TV show. But still. It could happen.
He led the way, walked up the stairs and kept Skyler close behind him. At least this way, if they came up, there would be some room to work with. He started picturing horror movies he'd seen – had it been Last House on the Left when they'd tossed the bad guys down the steps, or had it been Scream?
Was Jesse even really one of the "good guys" well enough to know?
At least Andrea and Brock were safe, one less family to worry about, they'd flown out to California to spend some time with Andrea's mother, who was living out there. At least innocent, precious Brock was safe.
But this little girl, this baby girl's life was in his hands, and as they crossed into the room and he saw her – and he never had before, he realized – it was way too much on his shoulders.
Way too much to bear.
Jesse looked down; she was sleeping. Soundly. Little fingers curled lazily over her chest. She had no idea what her father had done, had no idea the life that had led Jesse to come in here. If she opened her eyes and saw Jesse, she wouldn't understand who he was, what his role in all of this was. If she opened her eyes and saw a cartel hitman, she'd never understand.
"I guess we should sit down," Jesse told Skyler. "We might be here a while."
The gun in a holster on his waistband made sitting a little more difficult than normal, but Jesse eventually settled on a position where his legs were stretched straight out. Skyler sat on the other side of his, cross-legged, between Jesse and the crib. Like a last line of defense. He found himself thinking of the flashbacks in Harry Potter, of a mother diving in front of some evil person to protect her baby, and he actually shook his head.
Wouldn't come to that. He'd protect them both.
He couldn't help but wonder where Mr. White actually was, though, considering that this was his family. He knew that this had always been the reason he had fallen into this life, to provide for them, and he knew that it would take huge things, horrible things to keep him from that obligation.
He didn't want to think of what those things might be.
"Are you scared?" Skyler asked, and Jesse nodded.
He let out a little shrill laugh.
"Well, I guess that makes two of us, at least," Jesse replied. He put his hands to his side, let his left linger over the holster. "But I'll tell you this. I made a promise to Mr. White and I'm not going to break it."
"Why do you call him that?"
"Huh?" Jesse asked.
"'Mr. White', like you're still in his class?" Skyler tilted her head, watched him.
"I don't know," Jesse admitted. "Habit, I guess. It's… respectful. Or something. It's who he is. He's Mr. White."
Skyler laughed ruefully.
"I'm glad you know who he is, because I don't anymore."
"You aren't the only one." He looked down, clasped his fingers. "He's important to me. But I don't even know why. Lately all he's ever brought me is… just pain, loss, the loss of everything important. I've watched everything I want drop through my fingers and turn to shit and it's all tied to him but… I still stick around."
"Why?" Skyler's voice was quiet.
"He's all that I have."
"Parents threw me out. Aunt died. Girlfriend died. My new girlfriend might be afraid of me." He shrugged again. "If she knew the truth she'd bolt in a second."
Skyler locked eyes with him.
"What is the truth?" she asked. He shook his head.
"You don't want to know." He paused. "Because it's your husband's truth, too."
"It can actually be worse than what he said?"
"Well, what did he tell you?" Jesse rose and paced back and forth, trying to burn the nervous energy but finding it wasn't helping much.
"That he's killed, in a word. I asked him about this man, this meth cook who was shot opening his door. He basically confessed. Said he was 'the one who knocks.' And he basically admitted to killing that Gus Fring."
It was all Jesse could do to keep from bursting out in hysterical laughter.
"Actually," he murmured bitterly. "That first one was me." He swallowed hard, trying not to think of it, trying not to see Gale's face. "I was the one who knocked."
Skyler backed further towards the wall; she seemed to be trying to read him, figure out whether trusting him was a mistake.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because if I hadn't, your husband would be dead."
Skyler swallowed, and slowly took another step towards Jesse.
He reached out, palm down, and said softly, "I'm not going to hurt you." He breathed out as she reluctantly took his hand, shook it. "I'm safe. I hope we all are. We… we may have to run. If things get bad we're not going to have time to wait for your husband. You understand that, right? He would want… He would want you to be safe."
"Did he…" Skyler started, "Talk about me?"
"All the time," Jesse half-lied. "He did all this for you. Didn't want to leave you with nothing when he was gone."
Skyler's eyes went downward for a moment, before she looked back up, furious.
"That's what he said! But all he really did was put us in danger!" she declared.
"Well," Jesse murmured, "Road to Hell is paved with good intentions, I guess."
"What about you?"
Jesse cocked his head to the side.
"What about me, what?"
"What were your good intentions?"
"Didn't really have any. Selling meth was… I don't know. Something to do. Something I was good at."
"That's pretty pathetic."
Jesse shrugged again.
"Probably," he admitted. "But it happens." He sighed out, putting his hands in his pockets, before taking a deep breath and admitting, "I don't like sitting here waiting to die. Or to fight, and probably to die. I think… I think we need to run."
Skyler threw up her hands.
"Run where? Where exactly do you propose we run?"
Jesse put his hands on his head.
"I don't know. Oregon? Somewhere these people can't find you."
"You mean, cannot find us."
Jesse swallowed hard, knotted his fingers together, and looked at her seriously.
"If someone has to go down, I'll let it be me. I'm Mr. White's business partner. Anything he… did to piss anybody off in the cartel, is on my head as much as his."
He paced, turned, and tried to breathe, but found it difficult. Was he really considering dying for her? This woman he'd only met once?
It would have been a harder decision, Jesse reasoned, if it was just her. She was innocent, of course, and didn't deserve anything bad to happen to her, but she and Jesse hadn't exactly been buddies. However, then there was that innocent little girl and the chance that the cartel wouldn't stop there and go after Mr. White's son, too, until they found the man himself.
That would not happen on his watch. No one was bringing two kids into this.
"And if they find me, if I… the cartel has seen me, some of the people have at least. I could tell them that it's me. That I'm Heisenberg. That Mr. White just worked for me." He got a little thrill of pride, despite the fact that he was talking about volunteering to be brutally killed. The idea of being the mastermind instead of Mr. White felt like an unattainable dream. Absurd, but strangely exhilarating.
Skyler put a hand on his shoulder.
"That's a little premature, Jesse. Don't you think?"
He smiled nervously.
"God, I hope so."
Jesse breathed out.
"If we have to… get up and go, I can talk to Saul. He could get you guys new identities. Get you on a plane where no one could ever find you."
An expression Jesse couldn't quite identify floated across Skyler's face.
"Probably not. Do you want him to?"
Skyler was saved from replying as Holly awoke and began to cry. She scooped her up and held her tight, glancing a little suspiciously at Jesse, as if he would snatch her out of Skyler's arms.
The child wouldn't stop crying, and Skyler's hands shook, desperation showing, though Jesse knew she must be way too proud to voice it.
"Could I try?" he asked quietly, and he expected her to spit in his face.
To his surprise, she slowly handed the baby over. Jesse was reminded of holding Jake, of cradling him and looking at him with wonder and curiosity, amazed at the little perfect fingers and toes.
Holly seemed to fit snugly in his arms, though he figured she probably wouldn't in coming weeks. She slowly quieted and reached up to press two fingers against Jesse's chin, exploring.
"Hey," he whispered. "I've got you. Got you both. I promise."
Jesse leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to the baby's forehead. Something caught in his throat; it was hard to contain it.
If he lived, would he hold his own child one day?
If he lived…
He slowly handed Holly back to Skyler, who rocked her back and forth with still-shaking arms as Jesse tried to figure out what to do. If they ran, then that would attract attention…
His thought was cut off by the shriek of the phone.
Skyler jumped. Jesse reached for the phone and pressed the green button.
A deep, accented voice greeted him on the other end.
"I am looking for Walter White."
"You've got the wrong number. You need to stop calling here," Jesse replied firmly. "I do not know any Walter White." Skyler watched him, as she placed Holly back in her crib and began to pace.
"Do not try and fool me," the voice snarled. "This is Walter White's house. I need to speak with him."
"Well too bad," Jesse snapped. "He doesn't live here. I live here with my girlfriend and my child. We just moved in last week. I don't know any Walter and if you won't stop calling here, I am going to contact the police."
"Somehow I doubt that… Jesse Pinkman."
The line went dead.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Jesse exclaimed, grabbing his cell phone out of his bag and dialing Mr. White's cell phone number. "Mr. White!" he yelled into it. "Kind of need to speak with you, like right now! Call me the fuck back!" He slammed it back down against his leg and let out a breath.
His hands shook. He had to make a decision. But any wrong move would just get them killed. What the hell could he do?
He made another call; this time, it was to Saul.
"Could you get us out of here, where no one could find us, like… now?" he inquired. "People are coming for Mr. White. They're coming for…"
"Pinkman." The voice on the other end was quiet. "It's been… Good luck, kid." The voice was cut off as the sharp sound of a gunshot reached Jesse's ears.
He dropped the phone.
"Oh, God," Jesse gasped. He tried to keep his breathing under control. What had Mike taught him? And why did Mike have to be so far away, all the way in Mexico, still recovering? He could have spirited away Skyler and Holly easily.
Instead, it was all up to Jesse. And he had to act fast – he didn't know what Saul might have been compelled to tell the assassins before his death.
His death. Jesse swallowed the words. He couldn't mourn right now, for Saul or for Mr. White, wherever he might be. He had made a promise, and he was going to keep it.
She had fallen asleep, at last, on her bed, though she looked more like an intoxicated person who had passed out than a normal sleeping person. He could see the exhaustion etched in her features. He slowly reached out and shook her awake.
"We've got to go."
Her eyes opened wide, full of terrified blue.
"What happened?" she asked. He shook his head.
"It's not important right now. But we've got to leave, now. I'll figure out a way to get you two to safety. You've got to call your brother-in-law though and make sure he doesn't bring your son home. Do you understand?"
Skyler nodded and slowly picked up her cell. Her hands shook, and she dropped it to the floor before Jesse crouched and scooped it up.
Jesse could hear the ring vibrate through the phone, come out through the little speaker. He jerked forward a little bit when he heard Hank Schrader's voice; he figured it was some kind of conditioned response, like his body remembered getting pummeled by the man.
"Hey, Sky. What's up?"
"Hi… Uh, Hank," Skyler stammered out. "Listen, would it be… uh, possible for you to keep Junior a little while longer?"
"Sure. What's going on?"
"Oh, just… There's this crazy amount of stuff I need to catch up on and…"
"Say no more," Hank replied. "It's done."
"That's great. Hank, you're a lifesaver."
"Talk to you later, Skyler."
Skyler hung up the phone and looked back at Jesse.
"All right. Where are we going?"
Jesse looked around.
"What do you need to grab? You got everything? Because, uh…" he stammered, "I don't know where we're going, yet. But we're gonna find out."
"Do you have any people who can… help with something like this?"
"I did," Jesse hesitated, "But… now I don't. Listen, don't worry about it, Mrs. White. Just pack a bag for you and your daughter."
"What about my son?" Skyler's eyes went wide. It seemed to be really hitting her, now, that she was going to be leaving all she had ever known. Jesse felt a pang of guilt for her – she hadn't asked for Mr. White to drag her into this, hadn't been wrapped up in it already like Jesse had. She had just been a normal lady with a husband and kids.
"We can send for him once you're safe," Jesse replied. "No one is going to try and get at him while he's with a DEA agent."
"But Hank was attacked once before," Skyler pointed out, swallowing. Jesse looked up at her. "He was nearly killed… What's to stop these people, these men from the cartel from trying again?"
"Listen. Agent Schrader and I don't… well uh we don't really like each other. At all. But I know that he won't let anything happen to your son, okay? And I'm not gonna let anything happen to the two of you. But we have got to move fast."
"What about Walt?" There was a strange lack of passion to the question.
"We'll just have to hope he finds a way to get in contact. If not… he's on his own for now. Once I get you guys safe, I'll go back and see what I can find out." He let his eyes slip shut, before forcing them open again when the darkness thrust upon him mental images of Mr. White dead in a ditch or slowly dying by the side of the road, wishing Jesse were there to save him. "He would want his family safe before everything else. He'd kill me if I went for him ahead of you."
Skyler seemed unlikely to believe it, but she shrugged.
"All right. Let's go." She packed her things quickly, in a whirlwind of motion, before following Jesse to the front door with Holly firmly grasped in her arms.
"Wait," he cautioned, ushering her to the side as he slowly opened the door and peeked outside. His heart was pounding, like it wanted free from his chest whether he liked it or not. He heard gunshots in his head, saw a vision of himself falling in his head. Wondered what Schrader would say if this was the end, if he found Jesse's body in front, dying trying to protect them.
The coast was clear, silent except for those mental scenes and the pounding of his heart.
"Let's go," he whispered, "My car. Quick. Don't stop for anything." He held the gun in front of them as they rushed ahead, opened the door and climbed inside. "Buckle up," he muttered. Skyler did. "Hold on."
Jesse floored it. He kept looking behind, expecting to see cars behind him, shooting out his windows like in a movie.
But there was nothing. Nothing yet, that was. Maybe they were parked around the corner, or maybe this was all scare tactics and they weren't actually coming for them, too. Maybe all they wanted was Mr. White.
Jesse couldn't bear to think of what they'd do to him once they found him. Maybe…maybe once he had Mrs. White and Holly safe, then he could go back and find Mr. White. But where would he even start looking?
He closed his eyes. Maybe they had a connection. Maybe it was like… psychics, or something. Maybe something would come to him and show him, tell him where Mr. White was.
He shook his head. The man might be dead, if not now, then he definitely might be soon. There was nothing Jesse could do. It was all damage control.
There was no time to mourn. All he could do was drive.
They didn't speak for almost a half an hour, and Jesse didn't even know exactly where his destination was. Maybe California – he could drop them off and then go fin d Andrea and Brock and decide what the hell he was ever going to do with a life that didn't have Mr. White in it. Or maybe somewhere else.
He stuck his phone on the dashboard and fiddled with the GPS. Too bad he couldn't just have it pick a destination for him.
He was cut out of his thoughts by the sound of Holly breathing, quietly snoring, in the backseat. He turned around and looked at her. It'd all be okay. There'd be somewhere no one could find them. Should he stay with them, until they got on their feet? He didn't know.
Jesse looked at Skyler, and she wordlessly reached over and turned on the radio, flipped through the dial, and settled on a station.
"This one. Turn it up," she mumbled.
"After what you meant to me,
Ooh baby now, I can make it easily,
I know that we both agree, best thing that happened to you,
Worst thing that happened to me…"
Jesse blinked. Maybe Skyler wasn't taking this as hard as he was. He didn't have time to think about it now, though.
All he could do was drive.