Note: Sort of a fusion with Les Miserables.
Warning: Mention of canonical character death, spoilers for S5, child abuse, disturbing insinuations.
Mike was dead, and Jesse was out. That had been the reality for the past three months, even if Walt wasn't ready to accept it. Their little triumvirate had fallen by the wayside. Mike had been replaced with Declan, who Walt rarely ever actually spoke with, and Jesse had been replaced by Todd, who Walt could only barely get up the energy to care about one way or the other. Things at home weren't much better; he and Skyler were little more than people who happened to have the same living quarters.
Walt considered all of this as he sat in Saul's waiting room, trying to figure out a way to get Jesse back. It just wasn't the same with Todd, and it would never be. Todd was hired help, not a confidante, not a surrogate son. Someone could have walked into the lab and blown Todd away in front of Walt and he wasn't sure he would be able to garner more than minor annoyance.
It was Jesse he wanted, Jesse he needed, and Mike who had taken Jesse away.
But a plan had emerged in his head. A pretty lackluster plan, if he was entirely honest about it. But a plan nonetheless.
It had all started with a conversation he'd overheard last week, between Hank and Gomez. Walt had returned to the DEA office to see if he could snatch any news about Mike's case, and when the DEA would give up because the man was not going to be found.
"It's a damn shame," Hank had commented, "Gomie, do you remember little Kaylee? Ehrmantraut's granddaughter?"
"Yeah, of course. Why?" Gomez replied.
"Her mother got into a three car pile-up the other day. DOA. Next in line to care for the kid? Ehrmantraut. Needless to say, he's MIA, so the kid's in foster care."
"Damn," Gomez replied. "It's a shame. I mean, it's not the kid's fault. Not like she'll ever know she was almost a millionaire twice."
Hank had nodded and then turned back to Walt, and his Skyler problems, with a sigh.
"So I found this address you wanted." Saul leaned forward and looked at Walt with concern. "Also ran that background check on Kaylee's foster mother. A couple of priors under a different last name, for child abuse. So this is probably not exactly the Von Trapps. But, listen, Walt – uh, Mike isn't going to come looking for Kaylee, is he? Because I like my legs unbroken, thank you very much."
"Wouldn't Mike want her out of this situation?" Walt replied evenly. "And Mike is gone. Out of town. For good. So you'd only be getting on his good side. Give me the address, Saul."
"What are we going to do with this information?"
"There's no 'we'," Walt fired back. "Just hand it over."
He had. Walt and Jesse were in Jesse's car – Walt's was far too recognizable – as the younger man drove down the highway, barely speaking to his mentor.
"So, wait, what's our plan?" Jesse inquired, though he had already really past the point where he should have asked. It was obvious that he was still aching from the loss of Mike in his life and now the impending loss of Walt, too. At least, that was Walt's interpretation of the longing look on Jesse's face.
"We go there and we get her back," Walt replied simply.
"How? And since when do you actually care about a kid being okay? Let alone Mike's kid? Is this just another trick to get me back working with you again, Mr. White, because I swear…"
"Jesse, this is information that fell into my lap. I acted on it. That's it. Consider it a hold-over from my days of being a mandatory reporter." Jesse looked at him, confused. "Now shut up and pay attention to your driving."
Jesse turned back to the road with a shrug.
"I'm still out, you know," he commented after a moment.
"I know, Jesse."
Walt thought of whenever it had been Mike's car they were driving in, he'd been relegated to the back while Jesse rode shotgun.
It wouldn't ever happen again.
Walt had fucked up, let his emotion guide his hand instead of his brain. He'd acted like Tuco, not like Heisenberg. He wasn't proud of it.
And if Jesse ever found out…
He was less worried about Jesse trying to kill him – he knew he couldn't bring himself to do it – than he was worried about Jesse just falling apart before his eyes and simply walking off to end his life.
No, Jesse must never know. To Jesse, Mike must simply be on the run, out of touch, not dead in a ditch. Some part of Walt couldn't bear to use the acid on him – or maybe he just couldn't rely on himself to carry Mike without help – and he'd buried him under the river bank, somewhere peaceful and slow, along with the passport and the money.
Mike could use it to cross the river Styx, maybe.
Walt was jerked back to the present by Jesse's voice.
"It's off of this street right here."
He felt the car turn, and they found themselves parked on the street, not far from a somewhat rundown beige house with a yard in front that was filled with overgrowth and a dead tree stump. One of the windows had a crack straight through it.
"Mike's granddaughter lives here?" Jesse murmured. He pursed his lips, parked the car and stepped out. Walt moved to follow him, but Jesse motioned with a finger for him to stay back as he went on ahead.
Jesse slipped through the front gate, an off-white wooden thing that was missing most of its pegs. He quickly walked by the side of the house, alongside the gutter, trying to find an easy way to sneak up and look through the window.
There was a trashcan. Maybe he could brace himself on that. Maybe…
Jesse was knocked out of his thoughts as he collided with someone or something. He reeled back and fell on his ass, before slowly looking up.
Across from him, also having fallen on the concrete, was a little girl of nine or ten, with long brown hair and wide eyes. Next to her was the blue wooden handle of a broom that was almost bigger than she was.
"Sorry," she said quickly, "I wasn't looking where I was going."
Jesse climbed to his feet as well, brushing the rock fragments from his palms.
"It's okay," he replied quietly, "Are you Kaylee? Kaylee Ehrmantraut?"
She hesitated, then slowly nodded.
"Are you a friend of Miss Autumn's?" she asked.
Jesse looked her over. Her clothing was tattered, and he could see a bruise on her arm. He clenched his nails into his palm.
"I'm a friend of your grandfather's," he told her. "My name is Jesse."
Kaylee brightened and stepped closer to Jesse.
"Pop Pop!" she exclaimed.
A booming voice came out of nowhere to make her back up again, though.
"KAYLEE! You useless brat!" A woman, seemingly the owner of said voice, tall and pudgy and red-haired, emerged from the house. She didn't seem to notice Jesse at first, and just continued to light into Kaylee, shoving her and grabbing her arm before Jesse could step in. "Useless, lazy, I told you to get in here and sweep the floor. Don't makeme make you sleep outside…"
Kaylee flinched and broke away, before moving closer to Jesse, who stepped protectively in front of her.
"Who the hell are you?" Jesse yelled at the woman.
"I could ask you the same question!" the woman barked. "What the hell are you doing in my backyard? I'll call the cops!"
Walt must have heard the commotion, because he appeared at the back gate, wearing his black hat.
"What are you doing, treating this little girl like this?" Jesse fired back.
"She's fine. Mind your own goddamned business," the woman retorted.
"She's coming with us," Jesse hissed.
"Come here, Kaylee." The woman tried to grab her hand, and Kaylee clung to Jesse. "Come here, Kaylee." The girl let out a little squeak.
Walt opened the gate and walked inside.
"We can pay you." Jesse turned his head as Heisenberg stepped to the fore.
"What?" Jesse exclaimed. "Payher?"
"Yeah," Walt replied. "I'm sure that money talks in this situation. I'm sure ten thousand would suffice."
The woman's eyes lit up, before she made a pondering noise.
Jesse turned his head and hissed at Walt, "You are buyinga little girl!"
Walt's look clearly indicated that his response was, "So?"
The woman smirked.
"But I certainly couldn't release her to the two of you. Two men show up to claim this little girl? Pretty little thing, isn't she? You could have… intentions."
Jesse launched forward, but Walt held him back.
"Come back with a female and… twenty thousand. And we'll talk."
"I'm not doing this. Why are you making me do this?"
"Come on, Lydia. Stop griping. You know I'm going to pay you handsomely for your service." Walt sighed and looked over from his spot in the driver's seat. Jesse was in the back, this time, arms crossed and a troubled look on his face. Mike would be horrified if he knew. Murderously angry.
But what were they going to do once they got this girl? Bring her to the police? Raise her themselves? Somehow he couldn't really see Mrs. White being okay with Mr. White just bringing home the ten-year-old granddaughter of one of his criminal associates and going, "Can we keep her?"
As if reading his mind, Lydia spoke up, "Well, I'm not raising her. I have one daughter already."
Walt and Lydia looked at Jesse.
"Me?" he spoke up, eyes wide. "The junkie loser? The one you," he pointed to Walt, "bet couldn't last without getting high? You two think I should raise a ten-year-old girl?"
"You certainly did all right with Brock."
"I didn't raise him. Andrea did!" Jesse protested. "I just came by and played video games with him. That's not the same thing."
Walt ignored him and continued driving towards the house. Jesse sighed, figuring that arguing was futile.
So Mr. White seemed to think that he should raise a little ten year old girl. That was a quarter Mike.
Mr. White should probably go back to his doctor, Jesse thought. He's losing it.
They parked in front of the house.
"Yo, what if this lady called the cops on us, and they're waiting in there?" Jesse asked.
"She's not calling the cops," Walt replied firmly. "She's going to let us leave with Kaylee and continue collecting checks for her. This woman is not a paragon of virtue."
Jesse sighed and popped open the door and climbing out. The three arrived at the door, and Walt knocked loudly. The door opened, and the woman – "Miss Autumn", Jesse guessed her name was, was standing behind it.
"Let's make this quick."
They walked inside and looked around. The house was in a state of complete disrepair, with things thrown every which way and trash piled in the corners of the room. In a tattered armchair, facing a television with its volume turned down almost all the way, was Kaylee. Her countenance was worried, frightened, and she sank a little further into her chair as the group approached.
Jesse wanted to grab her and take her out of this place right that moment. He owed it to Mike; hell, he owed it to her and to any little kid living like this.
"Kaylee," he whispered, and the girl turned her head towards him. Autumn, meanwhile, looked directly at Walt.
"You have the money?"
Walt extended a hand, around which was wrapped the strap to a black duffel bag, before he dropped it to the floor.
"It's all there. Count it if you like. Now give us the girl."
He was full Heisenberg. He left no room for argument. Jesse half-expected him to hiss, again, "Say my name."
"Take her," Autumn replied, reaching down and opening the bag, fingering the stacks of bills, "Have fun." She gave them a wink that made Jesse's blood boil. What did that woman think he and Mr. White were going to do to this little girl? And what had she alreadydone her if that was where her mind was going?
Jesse was about to open his mouth, but Lydia cut in first, holding up her hand and showing off a wedding band.
"Mrs. Lydia Ehrmantraut. Nice to meet you, ma'am," she said, "I was Michael Ehrmantraut's wife. He was the next guardian in line for this little girl. I therefore have a very vested interest in the well-being of my… step-granddaughter. These men are trustworthy. I," Lydia swallowed as she continued, "I swear on it. And I expect I won't be hearing anything from you in the future?"
Walt gave his Heisenberg glare to underscore the statement."
Autumn looked back down at the money.
"Well, of course not. You won't hear anything from me."