Author's Note:

Breaking Bad is just too awesome to not write about. This is a one-shot that I wrote earlier this summer and have just decided to post. If this fic is well received, I may expand it to a two or three-shot, but probably not until after my massive Pokemon trilogy is finished, since that is my main focus at the moment.

Anyway, let me know what you think of it!

~TheFrogFromHell

Enthalpy

Walter White made his way around the classroom, returning his chemistry students' graded midterms to them. The scores, overall, had been mediocre at best, which unfortunately had been the case for most of the semester thus far. Perhaps five years ago, when Walter had just recently begun instructing at this institution, his sadly inaccurate hopes that his pupils would improve throughout the term would have kept him somewhat optimistic, but by now he had come to accept the truth: most people, especially seventeen-year-olds, did not care about chemistry.

During a typical semester, Walter expected to have one or two kids with a moderate interest in the subject, who might stay after class to ask extra questions, and another three or four who were the overachiever types who got A's in the class, only to forget the bulk of the information the following summer. Everyone else, a vast majority of approximately twenty-five out of his thirty students, ranged from mildly disinterested to, apparently, disgusted with the premise of taking a science course.

And then, there was Jesse Pinkman, who fell into his own category.

Jesse had strolled into class twenty-five minutes late the first day of the semester, reeking of cigarette smoke (and, Walter detected, a hint of marijuana as well). Jesse's first in-class assignment (which had been distinguishing the difference between physical and chemical properties of elements, a very elementary task, Walter might add) had been handed back unfinished, with crude cartoons scribbled in the margins.

Based on his behavior the first day, Walter had not expected any astounding displays of brilliance from Jesse. However, as Walt discovered over the next few weeks, what irked him the most about the kid was that, despite his strong aversion to studying the material, and his feeble attempts to answer quiz questions, Jesse still had the audacity to argue with Walter during lecture.

Asking questions rich in satire and poor in credibility, Mr. Pinkman had challenged the information in Walter's lectures, using exceptions to rules as evidence of Walter's shortcomings as an instructor. Jesse had scoffed at electronegativity, insulted Walter's carefully organized solubility chart by referring to it as "more pointless shit to memorize", and, in lab, when Walter had attempted to advise Jesse that he needed to add at least 1 gram of magnesium in order to generate an appropriate quantity of hydrogen gas, Jesse had eloquently replied, "generate my ass, Mr. White!" (Walter had sent Jesse to the principal's office following that particular comment).

No student before, and not one since, had made Walter so angry. There had been so many times Walter had almost lost his temper at Jesse; so many times the urge to grab the kid and punch him in the face had nearly overtaken him. There had been some days Walter had left work so agitated that he had lashed out at his wife and eight-year-old son, all because of an obnoxious, seventeen-year old underachiever.

The only thing that had made him angrier was when Jesse had stopped showing up for class.

It had been a gradual progression. First, Jesse had missed one class a week or so. Then, two classes, and so on and so forth until it had been a gamble each class whether or not Mr. Pinkman would show up.

Even more infuriating had been the boy's change in attitude. Jesse's loud complaints and snide remarks had grown quieter and quieter, until he barely said a word in class. Jesse had always been unpredictable regarding which assignments he turned in, but eventually he had stopped turning in any at all; his name in the grade book was adjacent to a chain of continuous zeros.

Walter had done everything he could to stifle the emergence of this new Jesse. He had cracked down on the kid even harder, awarding him detention every other class, and calling on him even when he was sure he didn't know the answer. He had approached Jesse after class on several occasions about his suffering grades, trying to snap him out of it. But Walter's efforts had been futile; the fire in Jesse Pinkman had gone out. For whatever reason, Walter had been deeply bothered by this.

Walter frowned as he handed Mr. Pinkman his midterm, folding it in half so as to not display his abysmal score for all to see (59/120). The teenager feigned innocence, accepting his paper with a contemptuous politeness, though Walter conjectured that with Jesse's study habits, he must have been expecting the grade.

Walter finished distributing the graded midterms and returned to the front of the room.

"Class," he announced, "this grade is not only a reflection of how well you understood the first eight chapters, but it also is a good indicator of your final grade."

A few students exchanged uneasy looks.

"I have found that most students' scores on their final exams are comparable to their midterm test grades," Walter continued. "If this concerns you, let that be incentive to," he shot a look at Mr. Pinkman, "apply yourself during the next half of the semester, so that your final score may greatly exceed that of your midterm. Am I clear?"

Walter was answered with an unenthusiastic chorus of 'yeah's and 'uh-huh's.

He nodded. "Alright. Get out your periodic tables and your lecture notes. Today we will be moving on from simply identifying oxidation numbers to relating them to balancing chemical equations…"

The next hour was agonizing, as Walter had known it would be; oxidation-reduction reactions, for whatever reason, seemed to confound his students every year. Just when he'd think he was making progress, another question from a perplexed student would disprove this ridiculous notion. However, at the end of the hour, Walter was relieved that the matter was out of his hands; he had finished, and would not repeat, the redox lecture, and whether or not the students chose to study and read their books in order to fully understand the concept was up to them.

When the passing bell rang, Walter watched as his students filed out of the classroom, most of them chattering away in small groups of two and three. When Jesse Pinkman, who was conversing with a classmate on his way out (if you could call using the word "fuck" as a verb, noun, and adjective in a single paragraph 'conversing'), passed Walter's desk, Walter said to him discreetly, "Mr. Pinkman, I'd like to speak with you for a moment."

Jesse's companion snickered at him, and Jesse punched him in the shoulder. But Mr. Pinkman complied, indolently coming to meet Walter at his desk. Finally, it was just the two of them in the room.

"Yeah, Mr. White?" Jesse questioned unenthusiastically.

Walter sighed and peered at Jesse over the rims of his glasses.

"You won't be surprised to know that I am extremely disappointed in your test score."

Jesse made an aggravated noise.

"Yeah, well, whatever, Mr. White. Chem just isn't my thing, okay?"

Walter frowned and paused for a moment before getting up from his desk to stand in front of his student. At this moment, Walter was grateful that Jesse was considerably shorter than he, unlike many of the boys in class.

"In that case… Let me ask you this, Mr. Pinkman. What exactly is 'your thing'? Is it English? Social studies? P.E.?" Walter somehow found it difficult to imagine that Jesse's grades in his other classes significantly differed from his Chemistry grade.

Jesse just shrugged.

"Mr. Pinkman, do try to look at things from my perspective for a moment. At the beginning of the semester, you weren't doing particularly well…" Jesse rolled his eyes exaggeratedly and opened his mouth as if to say something, but Walter held up his finger, "but, you were passing. Low to mid C's, in the early chapters I recall."

Jesse declined to respond, so Walter continued. "And after that quiz… the one in which you received a sixty-seven, if I'm remembering correctly, you stayed in this room long after class ended, arguing with me about how you deserved a better grade."

"So what's your point, Mr. White?" Jesse interjected.

"My point is that I think you used to care, at least a little bit. You used to raise your hand and ask questions, if inappropriate ones, and you used to spend extra time after class just to argue with me. Now, you just sit back there with a blank expression, staring into space, and you turn in assignments like this." He snatched the graded midterm that Jesse had been holding out of his hand and held it up. '59', written in huge red print, was circled at the top.

"Which leads me to believe that, in fact, chemistry is not your thing, Mr. Pinkman; your "thing" is not anything school related, actually. I believe you are more concerned with certain… extracurricular activities, which are definitely not helping your grades to improve."

Jesse took a moment before replying. He just looked at Walter with his icy blue eyes, and, for the first time, Walter noticed the dark circles beneath them.

Finally, Jesse stated, "Well, it's my life, not yours. I can do whatever I want. You're not my dad, so just get off my back, okay? Shit… Why do you even care?"

Because I care about you. Walter suddenly realized this, and while he knew it was true, he didn't understand why. Jesse had shown neither academic promise, nor respect to Walter.

"I want all my students to succeed," Walter answered generically.

Jesse just laughed, dismissing Walter's explanation. "Whatever, yo," he said, retreating toward the classroom door, "thanks for trying, but it ain't gonna happen, Mr. White."

Walter didn't approach Jesse after class again.