One thing was on Jesse's mind on the drive home from the lab.
He had to get rid of it. Hell, he'd already said it was gone, whether Mr. White believe him or not.
His first thought was to flush it. When he got home, he initially intended just that. But after standing in the bathroom with the bag of meth for a few minutes, he realized couldn't do it. He didn't even know why.
Which led to the next best solution.
Besides, he hadn't seen his friend in a while and it was a good excuse. And of course he was available to hang out.
The look on Badger's face was incredulous when he looked in the bag. He raised his eyes to meet Jesse's with a stunned expression. "Really?"
Jesse shrugged. "I just... need to get rid of it." He leaned back into the couch at Badger's apartment, putting his feet up on the coffee table in front of him. Was it really that much? He tried to rationalize "You want it?"
"Hell yeah, man. Are you serious though?" Badger asked. "Like, all of it?"
"Yeah... All of it. Just take it." He didn't care anymore. It had caused him enough trouble.
"And you want, like, a cut, or what, man?" Badger moved the bag from one hand to the other, as if weighing it. "That's a fucking lot of dough. Unless... Is there something wrong with it?"
"Nothing's wrong with it. Just take it, Badger. It's on the house." Jesse closed his eyes briefly. When he looked at Badger again, he saw him grinning. "Smoke it, sell it, give it away. Yo, I don't fucking care."
Badger was incredulous. "This is like fucking Christmas, man. Is there a catch? You need something?"
"No catch. I just..." Jesse straightened in his seat and cast his eyes to Badger. "I'm clean right now... Like, business is good... And I don't need... this. I don't need, like, a personal stash. But I had it, so might as well pay it forward, right?"
"Pay it forward." Badger grinned. "Fuck yeah, man."
Jesse gave him a look. "Just... you know. Be discreet... Don't mention my name."
"The blue shit is hot though, Jesse. Like, I can make crazy stacks off of what you just handed me."
Jesse shrugged. "You're welcome."
"You want to..." Badger gestured at the glass pipe laying at the end of his coffee table. "For old time's sake?"
Jesse eyed the pipe. He felt a bitter taste in his mouth. Hadn't he just explained he was still clean? "No."
"You mind if I... Take a taste?" Badger looked at him quizzically.
"Whatever." Jesse slid his feet off the coffee table and pushed himself up. "Enjoy, man. I've gotta go anyway."
"Sure." Badger watched Jesse head towards the door. "Later, Jesse. And thanks again."
By the end of the week, the dynamic in the lab was fairly normal again. Walt hadn't brought up the subject of stealing again. He didn't want to and didn't think he had to. He noticed that Jesse was more routine with his movements in the lab. Walt hoped that the whole thing was a wake-up call. Then he wondered how many close calls Jesse would need before he resolved himself to avoid trouble.
At least this trouble was only between the two of them. It had to stay that way. As angry as he got, he would never escalate it. Never. They had to handle it between themselves. No one else could know.
It made Walt uneasy enough to even discuss the subject at the lab. Even with hushed voices, any conversation they had in the lab made Walt wonder who was listening. It forced a habit of cryptic conversation that they had strayed from. They couldn't be sloppy like that.
Walter watched Jesse from across the lab briefly. With headphones on, Jesse was in his trance, cleanly moving through the process. While the week had gone smoothly, there hadn't been much in the way of conversation, as Jesse seemed more amenable to keep his headphones on. While he missed some of the distraction of conversation, Walt didn't have a problem with that.
It was almost the end of the day when Walt heard the door to the lab opening and peered up towards the entrance in curiosity. Someone to check in on them? It wasn't unusual.
His interest piqued when he saw that it was Gus. For a moment, his heart skipped a beat. It wasn't often they got to see the esteemed Mr. Fring in person.
Especially at the lab.
Jesse quickly noticed the presence of Gus as well and pulled off his headphones. His eyes went from Gus straight to Walt.
"Hello, Gus," Walt greeted, projecting his voice towards the entrance. "Nice to see you stopping by." He glanced at Jesse and found the younger man's eyes locked on him. He saw the fear in Jesse's eyes and raised his hand to him, as if silently telling him to be calm.
Jesse's tempered himself but remained on edge. There was something about Gus that always made him apprehensive. Walt always stayed incredibly calm and he tried to convince himself to feel the same.
"Nice to see you both as well." Gus's eyes moved around the lab slowly as if looking for anything amiss. "It's been a while, I have to say." His eyes scanned each piece of equipment before he then looked back at Walt. "Walter. May we have a word privately please? Unless of course, I'm interrupting something."
After a brief hesitation, Walt started to pull off his gloves. "No, of course. Just give him a minute and I'll be right there." He gestured at Jesse to come to his station. "Jesse."
"Perfect, thank you," Gus called down. "I will be just outside."
Walt watched Gus retreat from the lab and then turned back to Jesse, who seemed frozen. "Jesse," Walt repeated. "Come here."
"Yeah, I'm coming." Jesse walked briskly, plastic jumpsuit swishing with each step. Worries from last week suddenly rushed back to him. What if Gus knew? He whispered tentatively, "Yo, what does he want?"
Walt put his hand on Jesse's arm. "It's okay," he whispered back. "Just stay calm. I'm sure he just wants an update of some kind."
Jesse's eyes remained filled with concern. "Yeah, but what kind of update?"
"Let me find out. Just keep working."
Jesse nodded and Walt patted his arm briefly before heading towards the stairs. He normally would have removed his suit, his boots, everything, to return to normal attire before leaving the lab. But in essence of time, and Gus, he moved up the stairs without any adjustment.
As he exited the lab, he realized how strange it felt to stand outside the lab dressed as he was. He eyed the rest of the laundromat, bustling with activity. No one seemed to even notice their presence.
He felt Gus's gaze upon him and met his eye. Gus, with his unyielding calmness and authority, started to speak.
"Some disturbing information reached me this morning," he began. "And I felt that I should share it with you."
"Okay," Walt responded. He remained calm. "What kind of information?"
"It was brought to my attention that late last evening, the DEA recovered a small yet significant amount of product at the site of a drug bust on the east side of town." Gus eyed Walter, watching his expression carefully. "Normally I would not pay attention to these sorts of events. But what struck me as peculiar in this particular case was a certain detail..."
Walt frowned. "What do you mean?"
"The color of the product was blue," Gus explained. He took a slow, deep breath. "Blue and significantly pure..."
Walt shook his head. "That's impossible."
"I wish that were the case, Walter," Gus responded. "But the information is quite clear and my contact is quite trustworthy. Now, when I heard this, I obviously weighed the possibilities... It could not be a copycat, of course, as we know the rarity, and uniqueness of your formula. It could be old product on the market, perhaps simply a delay in distribution from the period of time that I did not control your product's network. But the third option, and what struck me as a very unfortunate possibility, is whether someone on the inside had decided to take a little extra for themselves..."
"What? No," Walt said quickly, shaking his head. "Of course not, Gus. I assure you, we-"
"We?" Gus interrupted. "Walter, I trust you. You are not the one I am suspicious of at the moment. And I'm not going to dance around the subject. It's your partner," his finger pointed at the entrance to the lab, "that has caused me more than once to question his necessity in the operation."
"Jesse has nothing to do with it. He would never do that," Walt said stiffly. He felt his stomach turn. "Besides, I spend every moment with him in the lab. I would know." He realized he should have known. He should have known the moment Jesse put anything in his pocket.
"You continue to protect him," Gus acknowledged. "Why I do not know. But he has proven more than once to be weak to temptation. This would not be the first time he compromised us."
"He would never do something like this," Walt repeated. "Jesse is clean. Even Mike should tell you that."
"Mike has confirmed that," Gus admitted with a sigh. "I receive very positive feedback from Mike on Jesse, surprisingly enough. But as I've explained to you before, once a junkie, always a junkie. Don't let his current deference fool you."
"Gus, there is no need to accuse him of anything," Walt responded, shaking his head. "Nothing points to him. He hasn't used and certainly hasn't had any of our product outside the lab. We weigh everything, we check in and out together."
"I'm not accusing him, Walter," Gus allowed. "However, I'm warning you of the need for control and oversight."
"Of course. And we have a very strong system in the lab." He paused for minute, trying to think of ways to reason with Gus. His mind was racing but he would not let that be apparent. "Really thinking about it, Gus, my guess would be it's old product in the market," Walt continued. "Very likely."
Gus raised his eyebrows and looked amused. "As I said earlier, it is a possibility, of course." He paused. "However, I think you have less control over your young partner than you think. Whether he is in fact behind this, I admit that I cannot currently prove. But what I do know is that I cannot run the risk of the DEA heightening their investigation for the source of the blue product. They should not be finding it in any third-party rogue dealers in Albuquerque. I solely control distribution."
"We all know that. And we would never compromise that. We have a deal, Gus. And we're both very serious about that deal." Walter realized he was clenching his fists and relaxed his hands. They had been in a good place with Gus recently. To weaken that trust was dangerous. He couldn't show any signs of culpability.
"If I were to find out that he had something to do with this- and I will find out if that is the case- then there will be some very serious consequences." Gus looked at him without blinking. "And you need to understand that, Walter. I will not have my business compromised. I will not run the risk of any parallel business or theft, right from my lab. Do you understand that?"
"Of course," Walt responded. "Of course. But I guarantee, it wasn't Jesse."
Gus smiled. "I know you'll continue defend him. But I will warn you that surveillance appears to be increasingly necessary. If you cannot control him, I will." Gus adjusted his glasses. "Tighten your leash, Walter. While I trust you, I have unfortunately had my trust forsaken before. I don't enjoy meetings like this. And I hope to not have to repeat this conversation."
"I appreciate you sharing the information," Walt answered. "Any other product out there is a concern to us too."
"Of course. Now I know you need to get back to work. Please, don't let me keep you."
Walter nodded and watched Gus walk away. The man of mystery, the man of power. Walt hated having this person control their every moment, watching them in and outside the lab. He missed their old freedom, but knew they could never handle this level of business without a network like Gus's. Without a cover like Los Pollos Hermanos. Or could they?
He took a moment, collecting his thoughts, trying to avoid some of them, and then returned to the lab.