Warning: Major character death.
Author's Note: Written for Yuletide New Year's Resolution.
Los Angeles, CA, 2009
"I feel like my face kind of has that 'trolling, or just stupid?' look to it right now," Jane Margolis complained as she put her hand on her hip. "I mean, dude, you want a refund for a coffee you drank… last week… because you didn't have time to complain about it before."
Her boyfriend, Jesse Pinkman, groaned and dragged his hand down his face.
"If I had a dollar for every idiot that came in here, well, we wouldn't need to work here." He leaned over and flicked a crumb off his table. He looked at his watch. "How long left in my break?"
"Ten minutes," she replied. "And you had better clock in on time or the manager will be pissed."
"Oh?" Jesse retorted with a grin. "Will she?"
"Yes," she responded, leaning in to give him a peck on the cheek. "She will be furious."
The door jingled, and Jane walked back behind the counter and started directing some of the baristas. Jesse could hear her, all authority and no-nonsense, and he couldn't help but always be a little impressed.
This was their life these days, after all – not a terribly exciting one, but definitely a step up from about a year ago.
Going back over that ordeal was not on Jesse's to-do list, however, so he stood up and walked behind the counter to clock back in.
"One minute late," Jane teased him in a whisper. "I might have to spank you for that." Jesse looked around and, seeing no customers looking their way, stuck his tongue out at her. "Mature, mature."
Jesse made another caramel latte, passing it over to an old man in a wheelchair, before looking over at Jane again.
"Hey, so who was that on the phone last night? I heard you on there a while."
"Oh, it was my dad," she replied, reaching out to fiddle with a sticking machine. "He wants us to come out and visit. Wants to see Chrissy."
Jesse considered it.
"You ready to go back, though?" he asked.
"I don't know, yet."
Somehow, they'd decided to go. The conversation had gone around in some sort of circle, with neither of them truly knowing exactly what point they wanted to argue, but it had ended in a sort of "why not?" standpoint.
Not that it would be particularly easy. Jesse was more than a little worried that he'd run into Mr. White and would have to face up to him about how much of a dick he had been the last time they'd seen each other, how he'd stood by and watched, helped Jane blackmail him into giving Jesse the money.
Not his most proud moment, definitely.
He jerked out of his thoughts as Jane turned the steering wheel and switched lanes. He looked at her, soft black hair falling over the collar of her shirt, and smiled.
They'd gotten past it. Gotten past all of it. It'd be all right.
"Chrissy's asleep, at least," he murmured, rubbing at his eye. "Took her long enough. Thought she was going to cry until we got into Arizona." Jane chuckled.
"Yeah, well, you try being six months old and see how you like it," she retorted.
Jesse grinned and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Well, all credit goes to you. God knows I couldn't have handled all of that for nine months." He leaned in and gave her a peck on the cheek, which she brushed away.
"Jesse, I'm driving," she chastised, "You're gonna make us crash."
"Sorry, sorry," he replied, chuckling and shifting back into his seat. "Can we put the radio on at least?"
"No problem." Jane reached over and turned the radio on at a relatively quiet volume, scrolling through a few stations before settling on one that was playing "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
"Think about how many times I have fallen,
Spirits are usin' me, larger voices callin',
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten…"
Jane started to sing along, quietly, before sneaking a peek back over at Jesse.
"I'm really grateful for what we have," she whispered. "We could have screwed it up. We almost screwed it up but we… we have each other. And Chrissy. Nothing's going to change that."
"He was almost right," Jesse murmured. "We almost were dead within a week."
"Walter, you mean?" she asked. "Yeah, maybe. But we made it through. We kicked that shit head-on and we're better for it. If I hadn't gotten pregnant though… who knows." She tipped the mirror back to look at the sleeping baby in the car-seat in back. "Well, you can't figure what might have happened. All we know is what did."
"Can't change the past," Jesse agreed. "I'm just a little… I don't know. Nervous about all of this." He knotted his fingers together. "I mean, what if we run into Mr. White?"
Jane looked at him sympathetically.
"Jesse, you do know there's…a big chance he's not around anymore. You said he was pretty sick before."
"But," Jesse started, "He was in… remission, and all of that."
"Just… be prepared for the worst," Jane reminded him. "You might not like what you find out."
Albuquerque, NM –
It had been a fifteen-hour drive, if you included a few stop offs for food and gas, but Jane finally pulled the silver Nissan Maxima into the driveway in front of Donald Margolis' two-story row-house.
Jane locked the car up, while Jesse plucked the baby from her seat and hoisted her against his chest, waiting for Jane to lead the way. He didn't really want to be the first person that Jane's father saw, whether he had a baby shielding his face or not.
Jane walked up, rang the doorbell, and waited. A few moments later, Donald's figure appeared in the window, and the door opened shortly thereafter.
"You came!" he exclaimed, reaching out and hugging her tightly, before ushering them in. His response to Jesse was cordial but detached, he nodded at him and smiled at the little girl. "And this is Chrissy," he said with a grin, as Jesse passed her over to him.
"Yeah," Jane explained, "Christian Donna Jennifer Pinkman. After Jesse's friend, and Jesse's aunt, and you."
"Take a seat," Donald instructed, ushering them over to a couch. Jesse sat gingerly, finding that he was still more than a little afraid of the man. After all, he had pretty much been able to pick him up and throw him that day back in Jesse's apartment. "Would you like a drink? Long drive?" He sat down across from them, in a big, dark blue recliner. He balanced Chrissy on his knee easily, and Jesse couldn't help but wonder if this had been Jane's childhood – if so, it seemed a little too nice to give up to run off with him of all people.
"Sure, that'd be great. A Coke?" Jane replied. "Jesse?"
Jesse jerked out of his thoughts and nodded.
"That'd be… awesome, Mr. Margolis. Could I have a Sprite? Thank you."
There was no invitation to call him Donald, and Jesse hadn't thought there would be. He rose out of his seat and gently handed the baby back to Jane, before walking into the other room and emerging a few moments later with two glasses.
"How has California been treating you?"
"Pretty well," Jane told him with a grin. "Working at a coffee shop. Long hours, stupid people! What could be better?"
Her father smiled.
"You're looking great, Jane. I'm just… relieved, honestly. You two both seem so happy, and your daughter is beautiful." He looked from Jane to Jesse and back again. "How long are you staying?"
They exchanged looks.
"A week, maybe?" Jane replied. "I can't take off super-long at the coffee shop, but… if we came all this way, we really ought to stay, shouldn't we?"
"A week sounds good. You know the guest room's open… I would be glad to have you."
On the third day, Jesse hesitantly suggested that they go seek out Mr. White. Jane agreed to the plan, though trepidation was obvious in her voice.
It made sense. After all, she'd blackmailed the man and threatened to bring him down, and if Mr. White was still around he likely had a dartboard with her face on it somewhere in his house.
Eventually, she agreed to stay back and catch up with Donald while Jesse sought out his old mentor.
It seemed an amiable enough solution. After all, Donald probably liked Jesse about as much as Mr. White liked Jane.
But somehow, as he let the car linger on the end of Mr. White's block, Jesse fought himself wishing she had come along.
He didn't know what he was about to find. If it was news that he was too late, he didn't think he'd be able to handle it. He might break down.
He couldn't break down. If this was the bed he'd made, he might as well lay in it. He left Mr. White behind, and though there had been good reasons – Jane was always a good reason – he had left him behind for the drugs, too, if he was being completely honest.
And he had to tell him he was sorry.
What would he do if he couldn't? If he found Mr. White's wife, informing him that the man was in the ground and that, by the way, he was most certainly not welcome here?
What if he found Mr. White himself, telling him the same thing? That Jesse had made his choice and that he didn't care?
He sucked in a breath and made his way to the front door. Stuck his hands in his pockets. Rang the bell.
Seriously considered running away when Mr. White's wife appeared at the door.
"Can I help you?" she inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"Uh. Hey. I don't know if you, like, remember me…"
"Jesse Pinkman," she said dryly. "How could I forget?"
"I was wondering, uh," Jesse stammered again. "I'm sorry to intrude but is Mr. White here? I needed to talk to him."
"Well, whatever business," she spat the word, "You have with my husband…"
"No business," Jesse said quickly. "It's just a personal visit. I… live in LA, now. I wanted… to come see him while I'm in town. Is he… okay?" Jesse's eyes went a little wide and pleading.
Mrs. White softened a bit.
"Yes, he's fine. But we're divorced. He lives in a condo off of Central. I could give you the address." She walked back inside and returned a few seconds later with a Post-It note with an address on it, which she handed to Jesse. "Good luck," she added, before shutting the door.
Jesse blinked, and turned to head back to his car.
"So," Donald Margolis began, as he took a seat at dining room table and looked across at his daughter and granddaughter. "Tell me about Jesse."
Jane sighed and put a hand on her chin.
"Do you still hate him?" she inquired.
"Like you said. I don't know him. What I saw, I didn't like. But considering it's over a year after that… run-in… and you two are still together, and neither of you is lying in a ditch…" He gave her that look of concern that she had gotten so used to seeing in years past. "So tell me about him."
Jane gazed over at Chrissy, running a hand over her head affectionately, before looking back at her father.
"He's sweet. He's… gentle and loving. He's a lot smarter than he thinks he is. He's got flaws, of course, but… he's a good person. I like being with him."
"Why haven't you two gotten married, then?" Donald inquired. He wrapped his hands around the glass he was drinking from and looked back at her. She shrugged.
"He wants to. I don't know. It's a big leap."
"You two have a child together. That's a pretty big leap, too."
"Trust me, I've realized. I just… worry that we'll do this thing and then… I'll realize that I don't want it and I'll end up ripping his heart out. Jesse is… well, he's head over heels for me and I want to know that I feel the same exact way for him before… putting a ring on my finger and being Mrs. Jesse Pinkman. Do you know what I mean? It has to be real… and I'm not saying it isn't, but I have to know."
"That sounds… responsible, Jane. But… there may not be an epiphany, or a moment that you just… decide. Sometimes you have to take a chance because you don't know if it's going to be there tomorrow."
Jane looked over at her daughter before returning her gaze to Donald. She picked up a cigarette and passed it between her fingers.
"Makes it sound like you actually want us to get married."
"Not if it's not the right thing for you. But if it is… I know from experience that you can't always predict the future."
Jane's eyes shifted downward.
"You and Mom, you mean?"
"I guess so. I just mean that life is short. You don't know what's around the corner. And if this is really what's in your heart, then… you should go for it."
Jesse lingered outside of Mr. White's condo, trying to catch his breath. What would he say to him?
He was alive, at least – both of them were; Mr. White's prediction about him being dead within a week hadn't come to pass. But it could have, Jesse knew. It certainly could have. He didn't know whether that warranted an apology, a thank you, or what.
He walked up the steps and slowly rang the doorbell. Maybe the older man would dismiss him out of hand; maybe he'd still be pissed about everything that had transpired between them.
But maybe not. Jesse clung on to a hope, a very small hope, that Mr. White would actually be glad to see him, glad to see him happy and alive and in one piece. Not that he'd be doing any somersaults that Jesse was still with Jane, but still.
The door opened. Mr. White hadn't changed that much in the year and a half Jesse had been gone, but he'd grown a beard and looked a little more ragged.
Jesse stared down at his feet.
"Jesse!" Mr. White's voice sounded surprised, but Jesse had no idea if it was pleasantly surprised, or just, well, surprised.
"I… uh, we were in the neighborhood," Jesse stammered out awkwardly, not raising his eyes.
"Come in," Mr. White told him, and opened the door a little wider. Jesse finally looked up, finding that the look in Mr. White's eyes wasn't one of hate. He couldn't figure out what it was, exactly, though. So Jesse stepped forward, through the door, and entered the condo.
"Nice place," Jesse told him nervously. "I went by, uh, your house, and your wife gave me this address."
"Ex-wife," Mr. White corrected, taking a seat on the couch and gesturing for Jesse to sit next to him.
"Sorry to hear," Jesse replied. He took a seat. "How've you been? Everything okay?"
"Yeah. And what about you?" Mr. White looked him over. "You look better than I saw your last." Jesse laughed nervously.
"Yeah. Rehab." He dragged his hands over his face. "Listen. I wanted to say… uh, I'm sorry. And you were right. We were stupid."
"Okay," Mr. White replied. It wasn't quite an "all is forgiven", but nor was it a "get the hell out of my house", either.
"I… it's good to see you again." Jesse shifted in his seat. He didn't really know exactly what to say. It was all so awkward. "Would you want to… like… get dinner or something?"
"Dinner?" Mr. White echoed.
"Yeah. I could… uh, take you out somewhere. Wait, that sounds like a date." Jesse laughed nervously. "More just like a… get-together, I guess."
"Sure. That sounds… okay."
Jesse perked up.
"Are you free tonight?"
"So," Jane told Donald as she hung up her cell phone. "Jesse's going out to dinner with his old high school teacher. Don't ask – it's weird." She shrugged and laughed. "Want to order pizza and watch a movie or something? I mean… Jeez, I can't believe it's been more than a year."
Donald ventured a smile.
"Yeah… I think we've still got plenty of catching up to do." He looked over at Chrissy and reached forward, watching as she grasped one of his fingers. "She looks exactly like a mix of the both of you."
"She's definitely got Jesse's personality," Jane said with a laugh, reaching into Chrissy's seat to pick her up. "Easy to get along with!"
"Hey, now," Donald teased, "You were easy to get along with… when you were about her age."
Jane stuck her tongue out, before her lips turned into a smile.
"It's good to be back. I… wow. I wanted to say… well, sorry for being a disaster. Again."
Donald shook his head.
"Water under the bridge. I just want what's best for you."
Jane smiled and sighed.
"Everything's pretty good right now, I have to say." Jane shifted her arm and looked at Chrissy.
"Then marry him," Donald told her.
It was odd, sitting across from Mr. White and drinking champagne, waiting for steaks. Jesse had spent the last fifteen minutes actively trying to not ask about the business, but he was running out of things to ask about instead.
"Are you still…?" he spoke up.
Mr. White shifted his glass between his fingers and nodded.
"Nice new lab. I even have an assistant."
"An assistant?" Jesse asked. "Wow, moving up in the world. What, he brings you coffee and answers your phones or something?" Mr. White chuckled.
"Not exactly. He just helps me in the lab. He's pretty enthusiastic. Has a master's degree and everything."
Jesse was surprised to feel a twinge of regret and nostalgia. Mr. White had gone ahead and replaced him. Then again, hadn't Jesse been the one to leave? So maybe it was just the way things were supposed to go. At least he was safe and alive. Happy? Well, Jesse didn't know about all that. He had the same intense, worried gaze that he had always had, like he had been running too long and had never been allowed to stop and rest.
The waitress arrived with their steaks, a well-done one for Mr. White and a medium rare for Jesse.
"So, are you still with…?" Mr. White trailed off, as if he first of all, didn't care to remember Jane's name and two, was sure that the answer would be "no".
"Jane. And yeah. Kid and everything." Mr. White raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah. A little girl. Six months old. Her name's Chrissy." A smile crossed Jesse's face. "She's great."
"So," Mr. White began, starting to slice his steak, "I guess there's no chance of getting you back in the lab?"
Jesse shook his head.
"Not a chance."
Jane's voice was silky, quiet as they lay side-by-side on the bed in the guestroom.
"Hey," Jesse answered, lifting his head. He'd been in that moment just before falling asleep, and he'd jerked himself out of it with a slight bit of reluctance.
"So… About where we go from here."
He looked up with surprise. He knew what she meant but from that first time they'd really spoken – Jane brushing off a tattoo as "way too big a commitment" – this conversation hadn't really seemed to be in their future. Jesse wanted it, though. God, he wanted it.
"You mean… like… us? Like…"
"Like… getting married."
Jesse's eyes went wide.
"How about this week?"
His eyes went wider.
"Can you even do that? I mean… like how long does it take? Do you want a big… like big thing? I mean… holy shit." Jesse sat up, spun to face her. "This is huge. Are you sure? Do you want… can I do it properly?'
Jane burst out laughing and wrapped her arms around him.
"Jesse. Jesse, calm down. You're okay. Of course you can. I'll even act properly shocked," she told him with a grin. "And I don't want a big ceremony. Just you, me, and our witnesses. I want my dad there and then… well, you could invite Mr. White if you want. Or one of your friends. Anybody you want there. But I'm not really close to anybody here anymore. I just want to do this. I don't know. It seems right. And we can get married pretty much instantly once we apply for the license. Why not do this? We've been together, we want to be together… Let's make it official."
Jesse leaned in and pressed his lips to Jane's chin.
"Yes. Yes," he whispered. He gasped it. "Hell… yes." His arms wrapped around her and he held her tight.
Getting married in New Mexico was a pretty simple process. No blood test, no waiting period, just the necessity of conjuring up $25 for a license and two witnesses.
Jesse and Jane were situated at the Justice of the Peace's office, not more than three miles down the road from the old duplex in which they'd met. Jane had gone out and bought a new, long black-and-red dress (she'd made a snarky quip about wearing white), while Jesse had sprung for a tux he was unsure he'd ever wear again.
Donald was standing at Jane's side, a hand on her shoulder and an expression Jesse couldn't entirely read on his face. If he had to figure it, he guessed that he was glad that Jane was getting married but still a little unsure of letting go of her. Jesse hoped he'd be up to the responsibility. Chrissy was asleep in her stroller, her little head slumped lazily down. Jesse looked over at her and repeated to himself that he could do this. He could do this.
At Jesse's side was Mr. White. His expression was even harder to figure out. He seemed worried – but about this? Why? There had to be something else going on. Maybe with the lab or with Mr. White's family or his employer. But Jesse wasn't a part of that world anymore. There wasn't anything he could do to help.
The Justice of the Peace, who was a broad-shoulder Mexican-American man who wore a large pair of black-rimmed glasses, began to explain the current undertaking, but Jesse had to wonder why anyone needed to be told these things. If people needed a reminder of what getting married meant, he figured they were probably in the wrong place.
"The step which you are about to take is the most important into which human beings can come. It is a union of two people founded upon mutual respect and affection. Your lives will change, your responsibilities will increase, but your joy will be multiplied if you are sincere and earnest with your pledge to one another."
Jesse couldn't tell whether he was bored or panicking. He had never really pictured himself as someone who would get married and have kids, raise a family. But now that he was here, it seemed right… As long as he didn't screw it up, that was.
The Justice of the Peace turned to Jesse.
"Jesse, will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, and forsaking all others, keep you only unto her, for so long as you both shall live?"
His throat was dry. He was sure he'd somehow mess it up, even though all he had to say was "yes". Everyone was looking at him.
"Yes," he said firmly.
"Jane, will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, and forsaking all others, keep you only unto him, so long as you both shall live?"
Jane nodded and looked at Jesse.
"Yes, I will."
"Take hands and repeat after me," the Justice of the Peace told them. They did. Jesse's hands were sweating, and he gave Jane a little nervous smile of apology. "I, Jesse, take you, Jane, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward."
Jesse swallowed and looked into her eyes.
"I, Jesse, take you, Jane, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer…" He faltered a second and continued, "And for poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward."
"And now you," the Justice instructed to Jane. "Repeat after me. I, Jane, take you, Jesse, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer or poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward."
Jesse heard Jane swallow as well before she began, in an equally nervous voice.
"I, Jane, take you, Jesse, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer or poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward." She gave him a nervous grin and looked into his eyes.
"Do you have a ring for the bride?" The Justice asked. Jesse nodded, and looked to Mr. White, who extended his hand and gave Jesse the ring, after Jesse had managed to clumsily detach himself from Jane's hands. "Please place the ring on the bride's finger and say: With this ring, I thee wed."
Jesse took a deep breath. He looked at Mr. White, looked at Donald, then looked at Jane, and placed the ring on her finger, his hands shaking.
"With this ring, I thee wed."
"Is there a ring for the groom?" Jane reached out, and, in turn, got the ring from Donald. "Please place the ring on the groom's finger and say: With this ring I thee wed."
Jane proceeded to slip the ring on Jesse's finger. In a low voice, she repeated the words.
"Let these rings be given and received as a token of your affection, sincerity and fidelity to one another. In as much as Jesse and Jane have consented together in wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company, and pledged their vows to each other, by the authority vested in me by the State of New Mexico, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
Jesse didn't need to be told twice. He leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to Jane's lips and hugged her like he was never going to let her go.
This was the life. This was everything. They'd made the right decision.
"Well," Mr. White commented to the couple as the four stood around after the ceremony. "Congratulations to the two of you. So, what are your plans, honeymoon-wise?"
"There's this hotel, not far from here. It's 'Albuquerque's Only Luxury Hotel', apparently. The Hotel Andaluz." She looked over at Donald. "Thank you again for taking Chrissy. Two days of alone time will do wonders."
Jesse burst out in a grin. His hand hadn't left Jane's shoulder.
"I'm… this is going to be great. Just… all of it," he whispered. "Sorry, I'm still a little bit in shock."
"It stays that way for a while. I woke up the next day and went, 'Holy cow, I'm married.'"
Mr. White nodded.
"Yeah, that's what I said, too."
Jesse and Jane lay on their backs, staring at the ceiling. She was in a silk bathrobe, while Jesse had simply stripped down to his boxers.
"Honestly," Jane started, "I never thought I'd actually get married."
"Neither did I," Jesse told her, "Especially not to somebody like you." He rolled to his side and gently kissed her. "Mine," he whispered. "All mine."
"Yeah, well, why don't we break in this bed?" she suggested. "Y'know, wedding night bliss and all of that. I can play the blushing virgin if you want."
"Nah," Jesse said, "I like you the way you are." He chuckled and was about to say something else when there was a loud knock on the door.
"That's probably the maid," Jane said, before calling, "Uh – we're fine!" The knock on the door sounded again, and she sighed. "Maybe it's room service or something." She rose off the bed and went to the door, fiddling with the lock and opening it.
Standing there in the hallway was Mr. White.
"Jane. Is Jesse here?"
"Uh…Excuse me. On our honeymoon here?" Jane protested. He reached out and pushed her aside, stepping into the room.
"Yo, what the hell man?" Jesse exclaimed, sitting up.
"Jesse. Jesse I'm sorry but you need to help me. They're going to kill me."
Jane could have smacked him. She really could have.
"So you're getting chased by people who want to kill you, and your first instinct is to drive straight towards us?" she raged. She'd discarded the robe in favor of a blouse and a short black skirt, neither of which really struck her as running-from-drug-lords gear. She turned to Jesse, who pre-emptively flinched. "Great honeymoon, baby. Positively spectacular!"
"Okay, well," Mr. White cut in, "If we're done getting hysterical…"
"Who's getting hysterical?" Jane yelled at him, and Mr. White adjusted his glasses.
"I have no intention of putting the two of you in danger. I just needed to be off the radar. Other than myself and your father," he gestured to Jane, "No one else knows the two of you are here. So stop freaking out, Jane. I'll be out of your hair as soon as the coast is clear." He turned to Jesse. "Wouldn't want to inconvenience you."
"It's nothin'," Jesse mumbled, not looking at either of them, "I don't want anything to happen to you."
Jane sighed exasperatedly and looked at the desperate glance Jesse was giving her.
"All right. Pull up a chair and stay a while. But good God, next time just send a goddamned card!"
Mr. White took a seat in a cushy-looking chair off to the side of the bed.
"Stay away from the windows," Jane instructed dispassionately. "Where are you going after this? Do we need to take you anywhere?"
Mr. White looked at the two of them.
"The airport was my plan," he replied, "Before that, the bank. I have a safety deposit box in case of emergency."
"I guess we'll need to drive you there," Jesse spoke up. "They'd recognize your car."
"So we're going? Is that what we're doing now?"
"I guess," Jesse replied. "I mean every second we stay here is a second that they could come looking for Mr. White. But if we get him to the bank, he can get to the airport and he's got the best bet." Jane looked at him.
"Your tone of voice indicates that to you, Jesse, this is a totally normal conversation!" she snapped. Jesse reached out and grabbed her hands.
"Listen, baby… Jane. Sweetheart. This is the last of it, okay? That was my old life. It's over. But Mr. White… he saved me a couple times. So I owe him this. But then it's over. Back to how we were, okay?"
Jane didn't look happy about it, but she made a noise of agreement.
"Fine. Let's go. But I swear to God, if it's him or us, I choose us. You got it?"
Jesse swallowed and nodded.
"Crystal clear, Jane."
Mr. White looked back and forth between the two.
"Are we going to go, or is the trouble in paradise affecting our ability to get in Jesse's car?" he asked.
Jane glared at him.
"Fuck you." She grabbed Jesse's keys off the desk. "The sooner we get him out the better."
"Make a right here," Mr. White instructed, leaning up from the backseat and getting uncomfortably close to Jesse.
"Okay, right here," Jesse echoed, turning the steering wheel. "We're almost home free, right?"
"Yeah, then I just need to get to the airport."
"What did you do to piss him off, anyway?" Jesse asked.
"It's a long story. Business disagreement," Mr. White replied brusquely, "Nothing to talk about."
"Oh I think it's something to…" Jane started, but she was jolted out of what she was saying as the car lurched forward. "What the fuck was that?" She looked in the sideview mirror and let out a distressed sound. "Jesse, someone just rammed us!"
Jesse pressed his foot to the gas and sped up as Jane and Mr. White turned to try and see what was going on. There was a black car behind them, tailgating extremely closely, and it had indeed just rammed into the car. They were putting some distance between them, but it didn't seem to be enough.
"Shit, Jesse!" Mr. White urged as he looked back, "Everybody duck – Jesse hit the goddamned gas! He's got a gun pointed at us!" Jesse lead-footed it; he started praying under his breath, as that seemed the most appropriate course of action. He pushed Jane's head down a second later, hoping that Mr. White would be doing the same in back. There was nary a moment to think, to plan, to do anything but will the little car further up the road.
As Jesse sped up, so did the car behind him. They seemed to match him speed for speed, until the acceleration seemed to crap out and the car stalled at about eighty miles an hour, protesting when Jesse tried to make it go faster. He swallowed hard and held on for dear life. There was no time to talk or question, just to try and think of some crazy, eleventh-hour shit he could try.
He didn't get time to think of any. The metal railing seemed to come out of nowhere, seemed to just pop up in Jesse's view like a villain in a video game, and when he swerved to avoid it he felt the car lurch hard to the left and keep going, turn like they were on some kind of carnival ride.
Jane let out a yelp as she felt herself fly from the car. At some point in midair, her mind stopped time as she considered that the door must've flown open; why hadn't she locked the door, or maybe she had and it was just forced open anyway. She didn't have much time to think about it before she landed hard on the concrete.
She thought everything would be broken, but as she flexed an arm she found that her only real injury seemed to be gravel embedded in her palms. She gathered herself up and climbed to her feet, trying to figure out what was going on.
She heard a gunshot, cracking off like a firecracker. She'd never heard a gun before, despite the year in LA, but somehow she knew instinctively what it was and who had fired.
It'd been Mr. White firing and he must have brought a gun. The men must have come after him.
She turned and saw him standing behind her, and she tried to put together in a dizzy whirl whether he'd been thrown from the car, too, or whether he'd scrambled out or even been pulled out by whoever he had just shot. Whichever man had run them off the road.
And where was Jesse? She stared at her palms and tried to pick the gravel out. Where was Jesse?
Jane looked at Mr. White.
"Where's Jesse?" She found the voice to ask, but it sounded far off, distant.
"He's in the car," Mr. White told her, and she turned to head back towards it. It had come to a stop on the other side of the highway, halfway in the grass. But when she started to run, she felt hands grab her from behind. "Stop. You see that?" He gestured to something pooling out from the car. "That's gas. It's going to blow. We have to run."
Jane shook her head.
"No. Jesse." Her voice was dispassionate, in shock. Mr. White grabbed her tighter and she yanked at his hand, screamed and, in a reflex, bit his arm hard.
He yelled in shock and she took her moment to run towards the car.
He was yelling something at her that she couldn't hear. It was like slow motion, and her mind kept calling to her that maybe it was too late, maybe Jesse was already gone. Yet as forced the door open, she saw him there, upside down and pinned, but still alive.
"Jesse," she called, "I'm gonna get you out of here." She reached out and gripped Jesse's arm, trying to figure out how to pull him out.
"Jane." Jesse's voice was low, quiet, broken. "I'm… I can't. I can't move. I… can't move anything. You should get outta here."
"Not a chance," Jane whispered. She reached out and gripped his head between her hands. "Not leaving you here."
"Jane… Go. Seriously," Jesse pleaded.
She shook her head and moved closer, so she was holding Jesse's head against her chest. She reached in her pocket; the cell phone was still there, somehow undamaged in the impact. She pulled it out and typed a quick text to her father; she intended it to say "Hey Dad, love you, take care of Chrissy for me alright?" but it was probably rife with misspellings.
It didn't matter. She could hear the gas dripping, could feel every instinct telling her to run. But she wouldn't.
She was struck by the realization that Jesse had always loved her more than she'd loved him. She owed him this.
She reached back and touched Jesse's neck, his upper back. Probably his spine had been damaged, that had to be why, or maybe it was just shock. She didn't know. If they lived, the hospital would ply them both with morphine; ironic. Back to the needle again.
She knew they wouldn't live.
"Close your eyes, baby," she whispered. "I've got you." She took a deep breath and waited for the boom.
Donald sat in the back bedroom, holding Chrissy in his arms. She was a perfect little thing, absolutely precious and innocent in every way.
It hadn't been so long ago that he'd been standing in this same house, with the baby Jane wrapped in his arms as he wondered what the hell to do and where to go from there, what an air traffic controller with no clue about life apart from memorizing codes and staying alert was supposed to do as the sole parent of a miniature human being.
It had been twenty-six years since those days, and the house was covered with pictures of Jane's accomplishments, her milestones. He didn't need to keep track of the failures and missteps; they were present enough in his mind, the track marks and secrets and lies.
So more prominent were the photos hung in every room – Donald posing with Jane as a toddler, as a young child. School portraits where she was smiling widely with gaps in her teeth. A trophy she won in soccer at eight or nine.
And a few older photos, of Donald with his wife, with Dina, arm in arm when she was pregnant or after Jane had been born. A woman with dark, curly hair and a constant wide smile, like she was showing off for the world.
Donald knew the few shots they had taken at the wedding would come in soon, touched up and ready to be framed. He can use it to replace the couple of Polaroids he'd been sent in the mail, of the happy couple standing with their child. They need a real family photo on the wall.
He leaned in and gently brushed a piece of hair from the baby's head. It was hard to think that Jane had a child, now, had become a mother.
"Bye, baby Bunting, Daddy's gone a-huntin'," Donald sang softly, letting Chrissy drift off to sleep, "He's gone to get a rabbit's skin to wrap the baby Bunting in…" He slowly placed her down in her bed, tucking her in and moving back to walk out of the room. He kind of hoped Jane and Jesse would decide to stay in Albuquerque. He would want a relationship with his granddaughter, a renewed relationship with Jane and even some kind of civility with Jesse. He wasn't that bad a kid, really, or at least he had to tell himself that.
The doorbell rang, and Donald cursed it. Who the hell was coming around this time of the evening?
He made his way downstairs, ready to verbally obliterate some obnoxious door-to-door salesmen.
He opened the door to find a tall man dressed in a county sheriff's uniform.
"Are you Donald Margolis?" the man inquired. Donald nodded.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, sir…"
"Jesse? Dead? How?" Janet Pinkman stared at the sheriff, trying to make sense of the words. She was gripped by a sense of disbelief, a sense that they were talking about someone who hadn't existed in a very long time. There was a stab of pain, but it was more for all of Jesse's wasted potential that he'd never get back, now.
"The car that he and his wife were in swerved off the road and hit a metal divider. It flipped the car and…" The sheriff trailed off. "But your son's daughter is safe. She was with Miss Margolis' father."
Adam Pinkman blinked at him.
"Wait – wife? Daughter?"
The sheriff hesitated.
"You didn't know your son had a child, sir? Or a wife?"
Janet shook her head.
"We hadn't talked to Jesse in over a year. I… This child, where is she now?"
"With Mr. Margolis. I've heard he intends to file for custody of her."
Janet swallowed and looked at her husband.
"Shouldn't that child be with us? I mean, I don't know this woman. I don't know her father. Who is this – Miss Margolis? What's her name?"
"Jane Margolis, ma'am, well, Jane Pinkman as of recently. Her father's a good man. Air traffic controller for the airport. But if you're concerned, I'd recommend you get a lawyer and go to family court; if you're really interested in custody or visitation of this child, that is."
"Then that's what we'll do," Janet declared. "We'll sue for custody. Our son's child should be with us."
"All rise in the matter concerning custody of Christian Jennifer Donna Pinkman."
Donald gazed up from his spot, looking over the judge and making mental assessment. He was an older African-American man, clean-shaven and with short hair. He seemed fair, somehow, at least that was the vibe Donald was getting. Apparently his name was Judge Harrison.
"All right," the judge stated. "Parties have been sworn in. I'd like to start by talking with you, Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman. Mr. Pinkman, what is your profession?"
Adam Pinkman looked up at the judge.
"I work at a bank, Your Honor."
"What kind of hours does that entail?"
"It's a regular workday shift, nine-to-five."
"And you, Mrs. Pinkman?"
Janet looked over.
"I'm a homemaker."
"And Jesse Pinkman, father of Christian Pinkman, was your older child?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Janet replied.
"And you have a younger child, is that right?"
"Yes. Jake. He's thirteen."
"Okay. Can you tell me what your relationship with Jesse was like?"
"It was…" She paused. "A troubled one. Jesse fell in with a bad crowd." She shot a look at Donald, who stared straight back at her. "And he had problems with getting into trouble for around… fourteen or fifteen."
"And Jesse left your house at the age of eighteen?"
"Whom did he live with after that point?"
"My sister, Jennifer."
"How long did he live with her?"
"About seven months." Janet cleared her throat.
"When did he stop living with his aunt?"
"Uh… Well, she passed away. And then she gave him the house."
"How long did he stay living in the house after then?"
"Seven years, Your Honor."
The judge nodded.
"When did Jesse move out of that house?"
"In March of last year. He moved… I don't really know where he moved."
"And you hadn't heard from him since then?"
"No, Your Honor." Janet shuffled uncomfortably in her spot.
"Thank you, Mrs. Pinkman. All right, let's go to you, Mr. Margolis. According to you, Jesse Pinkman was residing with your daughter, Jane, is that correct?" Donald stepped up, swallowed, and put his hands to his sides.
"Not exactly," he corrected. "Jane was the manager for a duplex that I owned. She lived in one of the two units. And she rented the other one to Jesse." Donald realized he didn't really know what to call him, not in this context, but "Mr. Pinkman" seemed too far off, much too distant for someone who had been his son-in-law, if only briefly.
"How long did that arrangement last?"
Donald cleared his throat.
"Not very long."
"When did your daughter and Jesse move out of the duplex?"
"March of last year. I had…" Donald paused. "Demanded that Jane go to rehab. She had relapsed. At the time, she didn't… really want to hear it and that night they both vanished."
The judge nodded.
"When did you hear from your daughter again?"
"About six months later," Donald told him. He reached up and adjusted his tie. "She wrote to me, said she had been to rehab and completed the program. That Jesse had, too."
"What else did she tell you?"
Another nervous shift of the tie.
"That she was three or four months pregnant. That she and Jesse were going to raise the child together. That she wanted a relationship with me again." He swallowed. Tried to keep himself together. He couldn't fall apart, not now. "She sent me this photo." He held out a glossy photo of Jane and Jesse standing in front of a building and pointing to it, the words "Promises Addiction Treatment Center" visible on a sign behind them.
"So, wait," Janet Pinkman cut in, standing up, "She was shooting up heroin while she was pregnant?"
Donald turned and glared at her.
"She got clean because she was pregnant. She wanted Chrissy to be healthy."
"That's enough cross-talk," the judge interrupted, "Mrs. Pinkman, please sit down." She reluctantly complied. "Mr. Margolis, what about when your daughter and her husband came back to visit this most recent time?"
"They both seemed happy. It was obvious that they loved their daughter. Adored her," he replied.
"What do you do for a living, Mr. Margolis?"
"I was an air traffic controller. I retired so I could look after Chrissy."
The judge nodded.
"Okay Mr. Margolis, you may sit."
He looked through a few papers and then looked at the group.
"This is not a decision that can ever be made lightly. This child, at six months old, has already lost both of her parents. The most important thing is making sure that she grows up in an environment that is a healthy one. Mr. Margolis, your love and affection for this little girl is incredibly apparent. You have the financial resources to provide a stable home environment. Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman, while I value your willingness to be involved in this child's life, I cannot help but think that your household is suffering from unresolved struggles regarding your older son. It is never easy to watch a child struggle with addiction, but I fear that introducing Christian to this dynamic is not in her best interest. I do encourage you to make arrangements with Mr. Margolis so that you can be involved with her life. However, I am awarding primary legal and physical custody to Mr. Margolis."
Donald caught a snippet of the Pinkmans' conversation, not so very far away. "He's crazy! We know how well he did with the first daughter, after all." It was Janet's voice. Donald's heart raced, panic setting in. He was back where he'd been before, this child reliant upon him. Had he failed Jane? Would he fail Chrissy?
"I say we leave him to it. The apple won't fall far from the tree," came Mr. Pinkman's reply.
"Do I seriously have to go? I don't want to go."
"It's important. Just humor them, okay? No arguing about this."
Donald Margolis reached up to fiddle with a framed photo on the wall that had threatened to come loose several times that week.
The thirteen-year-old standing in front of him shook the black hair that she'd pulled into a braid.
"Okay, okay. But seriously. You owe me."
"Yeah, okay. You were saying something about wanting one of those i… somethings, weren't you?"
"The iPhone 10."
"Don't you already have one of those?"
Chrissy rolled her eyes.
"Sorry I asked." Donald finished fixing the photo and stood back, looking at it. "Does that look crooked to you?"
Chrissy cocked her head to the side.
She gazed at the photo a moment longer, regarding the smiling coupled posed in it. Her voice got lower.
"What were they like?"
Donald looped an arm over her shoulder.
"They were good kids. Sweet kids. Loved you." He tousled her hair and smiled. "They both liked art. Music. They worked hard." He looked at her. "You're the image of your dad, you know?"
Chrissy shrugged, but smiled.
"Grandma and Grandpa Pinkman said he was a handful. Always getting into trouble."
"That's being a kid, Chrissy. Young people have got to find themselves and sometimes it's a pretty rocky road to get there. And anyway, your grandparents are a handful themselves." He had to stop from rolling his eyes. "Speaking of, you better get ready, we'll be seeing their smiling faces in about twenty minutes."
Chrissy looked at him skeptically.
"Right hand to God."
Chrissy hugged him around the middle and laughed.
"All right. Deal." She paused and looked up at him. "Love you."
"Love you too." He gently nudged her. "Stuff. Upstairs. Stay focused." She rolled her eyes.
"Seriously," she grumbled and turned towards the stairs. She poked her head over at the photo of Jesse and Jane. "D'you guys see this?" She shook her head, laughing, and broke into a jog.