Author's notes: I have not written in quite a long while... However, with a favorite show that currently has no new episodes to keep me happy, I've decided to put together some stories of my own. I've written quite a bit to this one already, so as I edit, I will post additional changes rather quickly. It is mostly Jesse centric. Characters are Jesse, Walt, Mike, Gus so far. Comments, suggestions are welcomed.
Jesse heard the sound. Heard the word. But the meaning, the fact that it was his name, didn't sink in. It was just a noise. Despite the lack of much stimuli in the lab, he was distracted. His eyes were locked on the stainless steel counter in front of him. But he wasn't even registering that.
The reflection of overhead lights across the shiny surface had initially caught his eye, reminding him of something, which swiftly provoked a memory of a dozen other things. Now he couldn't even remember what it had initially reminded him of anymore. Now he felt frozen, drowned by his current thoughts in a way that paused all other senses. For a moment he was somewhere else, a prisoner to his own demons.
He felt a sinking feeling in his gut.
"Jesse." Footsteps followed now and he wondered why the noise sounded like he was in a tunnel.
His reverie was quickly interrupted when he felt the sharp slap of Walter White's hand upside the back of his head.
"Hey," Jesse yelped, turning to glare at the man. "Jesus, what gives?"
"What gives?" Brow furrowed, Mr. White stood in front of him now, arms crossed against his chest. "Jesse," he repeated. "Are you deaf?"
Jesse rubbed his head irritably, glaring at Walt as he brought himself back to the the present. Back to the lab, back to the fact they wore matching orange hazmat suits, back to the repetitive process of manufacturing meth. Get with it, he told himself. Quit tuning out. He was back. "What do you want?" He frowned. He met Walter's eyes briefly and then looked away at the stainless steel counter again. What the hell did it remind him of?
"Are you done daydreaming?" Walt's voice was stiff, annoyed. "I've been calling you for the last ten minutes."
That was an exaggeration, of course, but rather than argue, Jesse heard the words "Yo, sorry, okay?" coming out of his own mouth before he could think about it.
"Just wake up, Jesse. Two man process. Two."
"Whatever," Jesse responded. "I was just thinking for a second."
"Thinking? Don't hurt yourself," Walter countered. "And a second, by the way, was more like ten minutes. Quit daydreaming on my time."
He wasn't daydreaming. Dreaming? That implied things far more pleasant than the thoughts that had taken control of his mind. He tried to shake off his most recent introspection and a chill went down his spine. There was a thin line between what was real and imagined. Or was it all real? And why wasn't he sure?
"Got it?" Mr. White persisted.
"Whatever, Mr. White," Jesse said again. He cleared his throat. "God. I could really go for a cigarette right now." Jesse ran a hand through his hair.
Walt frowned at him. His partner was constantly distracted recently. He was confusing standard parts of their process that he usually did like clockwork. He was more introverted, zoning out just like this. Not paying attention. It was annoying the hell out of him. "You're on a different planet today, Jesse. You've been on a different planet the last few days actually." Walter eyed him suspiciously.
Jesse looked at him finally, making full eye contact. "I'm just, like, tired or something."
Walt watched as Jesse hopped up to sit on the counter. He sat there, legs dangling, palms down flat at his sides. Again his mind seemed elsewhere. He leaned his head back, staring up at the large, industrial lights. "I wish there was real light in here."
Walt sighed. "We have another two hours. Maybe even a little less. Two hours. Can you snap out of it for that long?" He eyed the bare hands. "Where are your gloves?"
"Three of those bulbs are out." Jesse gestured absently towards the ceiling. He exhaled slowly. "How do you think they even get up there to change them? Like over there?" He pointed at a remote corner of the warehouse ceiling. He wished that his mind could stay on such mundane subjects. "How would you get up there?"
Walt moved forward and took him by the arm, pulling him off the counter with force. "Our job here is not to maintain the lightbulbs, Jesse. It's to cook," he reminded stiffly. "For two more hours only, which you're turning into three."
Jesse shook his arm free defensively and moved away, towards the other side of the lab. He did have to snap out of it. He knew that. He didn't like when his mind controlled him like that, when it transported him elsewhere or brought back the pain of recent events. But he didn't like being chastised either.
Walt continued, "So if you could pick up the pace, I don't want to be here all day."
"Yo, what do you want to hear?" Jesse responded irritably. He hated the tone Walt was using. The tone that made him feel like he was right back in high school, being chided for being a tardy or disruptive student. "I'm here. I'm doing my part. Chill."
Walter eyed him carefully, but moved back to his station as well. He started the next step in their process, occasionally glancing up to ensure Jesse was still engaged. Sometimes when these distracted moments of Jesse's happened, he contemplated whether they had anything to do with him staying sober. Perhaps he was waking up to the fact that he could have lucid, meaningful thoughts that weren't laced with being high. That there was a world outside of the perversion of drugs. He shook his head. Whatever it was, the kid was frustrating.
Finally things got back into a rhythm and things became more efficient again. But Walt couldn't help but notice Jesse's frequent, and loud, yawns.
After one particularly loud yawn, Jesse wanted to rub his eyes, but couldn't with the gloves back on. Instead he squeezed his eyes closed tightly. "Man, I'm fucking tired. I think I need more sleep."
Walter pulled his safety goggles over his eyes. He adjusted the strap to tighten them. "So get more sleep." He stifled his own yawn. It was contagious.
"Not that easy... The job's not always just a day job, you know."
"Is it Mike? I don't even know what little escapades he pulls you into now."
"They're not little," Jesse replied, rolling his eyes.
"You know what I mean. Working with him in addition to the lab. How does that even make sense?"
"It does." Jesse waited for Walt to continue with his criticism. Despite Mr. White's skepticism, Jesse enjoyed when Mike included him. He knew it bothered Walt, and that gave Jesse a small sense of satisfaction as well. That there was something he was a part of that was important. It was obvious that Walt didn't like being left out of any part of the process, or any information. Those "escapades", as Walt called them, while sometimes painfully boring, could also be interesting and unpredictable. Mike was someone to learn from.
"If it's too much," Walt started to say, "then you need to say something. Mike doesn't really need you tagging along anyway."
Jesse glared across the room at him at the choice of words. Tagging along? Again, Walt had to go out of his way to phrase things in a way that made Jesse's blood boil. "I don't tag along. I go if he needs me to do something." He knew Walt would love a way to make sure he wasn't part of those runs. It would be another thing for him to control and have the final say on.
"If he needs you to do something like what?" Walt questioned. "Sit in the car?"
"No." There was a skepticism in Walt's voice that made Jesse irritated. "Like extra security. Like keeping an eye out for things. I help with the pick-ups. The negotiations."
"Negotiations. Really." Walter chuckled to himself. "Okay."
"Yeah, really," Jesse said stiffly. "Yo, why do you care anyway, Mr. White? Huh? It's none of your business... You're being a dick because you're not included."
Walter let out an exasperated sigh and pulled off his safety goggles. "Included? Are you that dense?" he started stiffly. "What is this, getting picked for a team like you're back in school? I have better things to do than drive around the desert with you and Mike. But it is my business when you're half asleep in here. That impacts my lab." Walt shook his head. "Your performance impacts my product. Get it?"
Jesse's mind buzzed. Impacts the product? Ignore him, he told himself. He's doing it on purpose. He wants you to react so he can try to find more reasons to criticize your involvement with Mike. He's going to get you arguing so he can accuse you of wasting time again. "So what exactly did I do wrong today?" Jesse knew he shouldn't bother continuing the conversation, but he did anyway. "What exactly did I do to impact your product?"
Walt eyed him wearily, shaking his head. "Jesse. You said it yourself that you're tired. You're getting defensive over nothing."
Jesse remained adamant. He kept his voice even and tried to keep the emotion out as he continued, "I'm not. Just explain. How does me being tired impact to your product?"
"How about right now, Jesse? You're wasting our time. You're slow. You keep spacing out. It's not the first day you've been like this. And if you really want to get into details, don't forget that an hour ago you dropped and wasted a full bag of-"
"That was an accident," Jesse objected irritably. Why did Walt have to notice every misstep? In fact, that's all he ever noticed. "And it wasn't a full bag. Yo, like you've never spilled anything?"
"Fine. Go back to work. I don't want to argue over this. Conversation's done."
"Jesse, listen to me. Go. Back. To. Work." Walt spoke the words calmly but firmly. "Enough." He met Jesse's eyes. The deep blue of Jesse's gaze looked cold, angry. But behind his gaze he saw disappointment as well. He reminded himself to be careful with his words. Be gentle, he told himself.
"Whatever." Jesse turned back to the task in front of him, his actions forceful, irritated. Of course the conversation ends when he wants it to end, he thought bitterly. "I guarantee this batch is the same as every other batch. Like all of the batches before it."
"It is," Walt agreed.
Jesse rolled his eyes. Despite the agreement, he felt annoyed. It was moments like this, when even small comments wound up making him feel so irritated, he felt tempted to just walk out. That was his usual method to fix the situation: run away. If he was messing up so much, then Walt could cook on his own. But the temptation of walking out usually scared him enough to make him stay. It would undoubtedly lead to an even bigger argument. Then it risked Mike and Gus getting involved. He muttered a few curses to himself, and started to walk towards the clothing rack, where his jacket and Mr. White's clothing were hanging.
"What are you doing?" Walt asked.
Jesse reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out his Ipod. Headphones were in the other pocket and he reached for them as well. He connected them to the Ipod and pushed the earbuds into his ears. "I don't want to listen to you anymore today," he told Walt pointedly.
Walter rolled his eyes. "Okay." He shook his head as Jesse pressed the play button. He could hear the sound of the music, some kind of metal or rock, from across the room. He wanted to remind Jesse of the fragility of his eardrums, but stopped himself. That would just drive Jesse further over the edge. They could get by in the next two hours without speaking. Of course.
He watched Jesse return to his part of the process with an air of stubbornness.
Walt reminded himself not to get aggravated. It was common now to find their words contentious when the topic of Mike came up. Jesse felt some kind of pride in the fact he was included in these "missions". To Walt, his best understanding was that Mike included Jesse to check in on him. Ensure he was keeping himself clean so he could report back to Gus. There was no way that a seasoned veteran like Mike would need a scrawny twenty-five year old smart aleck as a partner. Besides, the missions, as far as Walt knew, involved pick-ups and drop-offs. Standard, mundane tasks with more driving than action. Jesse's mention of "negotiations" was just another exaggerated way of trying to make the tasks seem more important.
He shook himself out of his thoughts and turned back to work.
That night, Jesse had just drifted off to sleep in his bed when he was startled awake by the sound of his phone.
Groaning, he opened his eyes and turned to view the phone on the bedside table. It was moving slightly by itself, as it vibrated insistently. The ringtone screamed at him.
Who? he wondered as he rubbed at his eyes before reaching over to grab the phone.
He flipped it open and murmured into the mouthpiece. "Yeah?"
"Kid." It was Mike. "You awake?"
"I am now..." Jesse eyed the digital clock next to his bed. Two-thirty in the morning. He started to whine, "Mike, it's two fucking thirty in the-"
"Get dressed. Come on."
"What?" he repeated.
"Kid, come on. I told you- this is part of the job. You have to be ready twenty-four hours a day."
"But nothing. Get yourself together. I'm leaving in two minutes, and if your ass isn't in this car, then-"
"Okay, okay. I'm coming." Jesse was already standing, looking around his room in confusion. He moved to turn on the light. Two minutes.
Mike had already hung up and he tossed his phone on the bed as he scrambled to find clothes. Jeans. Okay. T-shirt. Looks clean. Okay, one minute left.
By the time he made it outside, he knew more than two minutes had passed and expected an earful from Mike. He hastily smoked a cigarette on his way to the car. The old Lincoln had its windows rolled down, engine idling impatiently.
Mike eyed him as he approached the car with a cocked head and drummed his fingers against the steering wheel. "Jesse. Come on, kid. We don't have all day."
"Day?" Jesse muttered as he tossed the cigarette on the curb and crushed it out with his sneaker. He had been so rushed that he hadn't even tied his laces yet. "This isn't day. This is like, night, or morning, or some kind of ungodly combination." He climbed into the car.
Mike was already pressing the gas before Jesse could fully shut the passenger door.
"What if I didn't pick up?" Jesse asked.
Mike glanced at him, before making a right turn onto the next street. "Then I guess I would have had to go upstairs."
"What if I wasn't home?"
"I knew you were home."
Of course he did. Somehow that didn't surprise him. Jesse was silent for a minute. He eyed the clock. It was now two-forty-five. "Where are we going?"
"About twenty minutes north." Mike cleared his throat. "You'll see."
"Anything I should know?"
"Nope. Nothing in particular. This one is pretty standard."
"But why this time of day?"
Mike eyed him. "Kid, you're asking way too many questions for three o'clock in the morning..."
Jesse yawned and reached for the radio knob.
"Stop, it's too early for noise."
Jesse's hand dropped to his lap. He yawned loudly.
Mike ran a hand over his bald head, keeping one hand on the steering wheel. "And tie your shoes, will you? You're already a liability as it is..."
Jesse was never surprised at the small details that he noticed. Mike, Gus, even Walt - these guys all had this uncanny common sixth sense for attention to detail. It was unreal. Sometimes he tried to make himself think that way; to try to think two steps ahead or to notice the unstated details. Then he found himself focusing so much on the possibilities that he missed what was right in front of him.
He raised his feet up to rest them on the glove compartment and started to tie them. "You know, I wasn't really expecting to get a call from you tonight. Especially at this hour."
"I wasn't expecting to call you," Mike admitted. "But this is good. You need the experience." He glanced over. "But come on, kid. Get your muddy shoes off my car."
Jesse tied the second knot and dropped his feet to the ground. He rubbed at a smudge of dirt that was left behind. "I need sleep though," he said. "I mean, Mike, I feel like I'm running on empty. It's like, I do this, and then show up to the lab?"
"That's between you and Walter."
Jesse let out a deep sigh. Yeah, that would go over well. Sorry, Mr. White, I can't make it to work today because I was out all night doing drops with Mike like you hate. After the conversation earlier that afternoon, he couldn't do that. Walter was looking for any reason to put a stop to Jesse's time with Mike.
"This is the first time I've called you this week," Mike reminded. "You want me to deliver the message back that you can't even handle helping us once a week?"
"No," Jesse said quickly. "I can." That was the opposite of what he wanted.
They stopped at a red light. "Look in the glove compartment," Mike instructed.
Jesse shifted forward in his seat and dropped the door of the compartment open. He eyed the gun inside and then looked at Mike. "A gun."
"Take it." Mike smirked as Jesse's face lit up. He eyed the still red light for minute and then looked back at Jesse. "Give it to me for a second."
Jesse handed it over and watched Mike smoothly open up the barrel.
"Like this," Mike said.
"I know how to do it." Jesse reached his hand out and Mike returned it to him. He wondered what this meant. What kind of deal would this be, if they needed guns and it was three in the morning? Mike seemed too calm. He noticed the barrel was empty.
Mike pointed at the open compartment again as the light turned green. "Look- see the small bag there." He pressed the gas pedal. "That's got the bullets. Get that baby loaded. But keep the safety on, and try not to shoot your dick off in the meantime."