"We need to get her some clothes," Lydia declared, "She can't go around dressed like this."
Jesse and Walt exchanged glances.
"So, I suppose this is where I come in," Lydia snarked, "Since neither of you know how to shop for clothes for a ten-year-old girl. Drive to Macy's. There's one about five minutes down the road, here."
Walt pulled into the parking lot, before popping the doors open. Kaylee hadn't said a word since they have left the house, and her eyes were a little wide as she stepped out of the car behind Jesse.
Jesse looked over at her, giving her an encouraging glance.
"It's okay, Kaylee," he told her, "We're just going to get you some new clothes, okay? It doesn't seem like that lady was taking very good care of you."
Kaylee shook her head.
"She was really mean," she offered quietly, "I don't have to go back there, do I?"
"Of course not!" Jesse said firmly, "It seems like – well, if it's okay with you, we were thinking you could come live with me."
Kaylee looked over at Walt and Lydia, then back to Jesse again.
"How'd you know my Pop-Pop?" she inquired.
"We were friends," Jesse replied.
"Where did he go?"
Walt looked away uncomfortably.
"I don't know, kid," Jesse replied, reaching out and squeezing Kaylee's shoulder. "But I do know that he'd want you safe and sound, and that if you stay with me, I'll make sure you've got everything you need. Your grandfather saved my life a couple times, and I owe him. And if he does come back," his voice rose with naïve hope, "I think he'd be okay with me taking care of you."
"Okay. But… what's your name?"
"I'm Jesse." He looked into her eyes and gave her a smile, one that she mirrored timidly.
"Okay, Jesse. "
"Let's go buy some clothes."
"People are looking at us, Lydia," Walt hissed, and Lydia glared back at him before waving to a Macy's associate.
"Hi, ma'am," she said in a shaky, polite voice. "Uh, you see. I'm a social worker for Albuquerque DHS. Lydia Ehrmantraut. These are my colleagues. You see, we are working with this child, uh, here, and we need, well…" She lowered her voice in an embarrassed way, "You see the situation. Where's your junior girls' section?"
The associate pointed, seemingly unsure of what to say, and Lydia replied with a brusque nod of thanks.
When they arrived at the correct section, Lydia began to sort through the racks.
"Okay. This, this, and this should fit you," she declared, handing the hangers to Jesse, "And these." She chose a few more. "We should get her about ten outfits, and then you can get more once you guys get where you're going." Lydia nodded after she added a couple of skirts and pants to the pile. "All right. Let's go." She made her way over to the fitting room. "Okay, you two gentlemen stay outside, while Kaylee goes in and tries these on. I'll come along to help."
Kaylee looked nervously over at Jesse, who gave her a little touch on the shoulder.
"Lydia's okay," he told her. "And I'll be right out here, all right? I'll be right out here, kid."
Kaylee nodded and walked into the fitting room, as Jesse handed Lydia the hangers.
When the two had disappeared behind the divide, Jesse turned to Walt.
"Yo, Mr. White. I can't raise some ten-year-old little girl."
"It's not my problem, Jesse. It's yours. For what it's worth," he paused, "I think you'll do just fine." He moved to put a hand on Jesse's shoulder. "Just don't ever give up on her."
The girl emerged a few moments later; the simple addition of a little black blouse with white polka-dots and a red skirt, along with the effects of what looked like a valiant attempt by Lydia to get rid of the dirt with some soap, had made a world of difference. The blouse's collar hung around her neck in such a way to hide some of the bruises, and Jesse vowed that there would never be any more to need covering.
"Hey, honey," he coaxed quietly. "You look great." Then, he looked over at Lydia. "Wow."
She put her hands on her hips.
"Well, you know. Experience. Okay. Let's go." She picked up the rest of the hangers, separated out the ones she wanted, and led the group to the checkout. "She's wearing this out," Lydia explained, gesturing for the cashier to scan the barcodes on Kaylee's outfit.
When the associate was done ringing them out, Walt pulled out a stack of bills.
"I'll pay," he said, looking at Jesse, who swallowed. Walt's heart was pounding. He owed Jesse this much, at least. After Mike… If Jesse ever found out what had happened down by the river.
Lydia knew, of course. She knew. But she didn't seem to be in any hurry to let Jesse know; she could probably take him or leave him so long as she'd be getting her cut of the profits.
They returned to the car with the bags of clothes in hand.
"What's next?" Lydia inquired. "What's your plan, Jesse? Are you really going to raise her?"
Jesse's hands shook as he shoved them in his pockets.
"Yeah," he mumbled, "I owe it to Mike. I'll raise her."
"Then you probably want to get out of town," Lydia told him. "Our dear Miss Autumn will be able to stall Social Services for a while, maybe even a year, but whenever they come looking for Kaylee, she'll be pointing her finger at you."
"We'll just get my stuff, get in my car and go." His words were quiet. He turned and looked over at Kaylee. "Have you had anything to eat today?"
She shook her head, and Jesse's blood boiled in anger again. He made a conscious effort not to show her, though. He had to show kindness, not anger, not a thirst for vengeance against the woman who'd treated Kaylee so wrongly.
Instead, he smiled.
"Okay, sweetheart. Let's go to Perkins once we hit the road. You can get anything you want."
"Waffles! And ice cream?"
"Of course, honey!" Jesse replied. "Anything you want. We just have to stop off and do a few things first. I need to go to Saul's and get the rest of my money." He looked at Walt. "You need anything before I go?"
Walt swallowed, and looked uncomfortable.
"Wait," he cautioned. "I… I'll come with you to Saul's. I have something for you."
Jesse raised an eyebrow. It had to be something to draw him back in, some incentive Jesse would not take, but he owed him enough to at least hear him out.
Jesse drove to Saul's with Walt and Kaylee in his car, while Lydia made her way back home without a goodbye.
When he arrived, he was greeted by a deflated-looking Saul, who actually seemed sorry to see Jesse go.
"Good luck with Annie, Daddy Warbucks," he told him and shook his head. He walked over and opened the safe, a started putting money into a bag.
"That's more than I had," Jesse protested, and Walt looked at him, smiling.
"Your five million," he explained. Jesse's eyebrow rose in surprise.
"Uh…" he mumbled. "Thanks." Jesse swallowed. This was real. This was terrifying. "Is this goodbye?"
Walt extended his hand, and Jesse shook it.
"Good luck," Walt told him. "Stay safe." He hesitated, then reached out and hugged him. "Goodbye, Jesse."
At Perkins, Kaylee dug into her waffle, covered with ice cream, with fervor. Jesse promised himself that he'd look up what she really ought to be eating and considered that ice cream every day might be counterproductive.
She had already started to improve from the frightened state she'd been in back in Miss Autumn's house. She began to speak eagerly, to ask Jesse questions.
"Where are we going to live?"
"I'm not sure. Probably a couple of states away. As far as we can go. I was thinking Oregon or something."
Jesse drove towards a hotel in Colorado that he found with the GPS on his phone. He was ready for the two to settle in for the night. Before he did, however, he made one last stop, a huge toy store nestled in a shopping center off the main rode. He led Kaylee to the stuffed animals and smiled at her.
"Choose somebody," he said, giving her a gentle nudge. She immediately went for a big fluffy brown bear, and held on to him through the ride to the hotel.
"What's his name?" Jesse asked.
"Bear-Bear," she replied, cuddling him a little closer.
They checked in, getting a room with two beds and a couch. They would stay here a few days, Jesse decided. He had to give Kaylee some time to recover. She was still fragile, and a little nervous.
"Your daughter is adorable," the woman at the front desk told him. Jesse almost asked who she meant, a little surprised at the thought.
This was going to be crazy.
Jesse let Kaylee choose her bed, and she went with the one on the far wall. That was fine by Jesse; he could protect her if that door opened and the awful Miss Autumn burst in to snatch her back.
"All right," Jesse replied, "We'd better turn in for the night. In a few days, we'll drive some more. We need to find a place to live." He ran a hand over his face. Hell, he'd need to enroll Kaylee in school. How the hell was he supposed to get her school records? "Have you been to school, like… recently?" Jesse asked. Kaylee shook her head.
"Miss Autumn wanted me to stay home. She said I was too stupid for school anyway." She looked at her fingers and clung to the bear. Jesse moved to put a hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, sweetheart. If I wasn't too dumb for school, you're not either." He pulled her close and gave her a little squeeze. "Soon as we get where we're going, we'll get you registered. We, uh, just may not be able to be 100% about where we're from and who we are, though."
"'Cause we're hiding," Kaylee chimed in. She said it conspiratorially, a little excited. Jesse nodded.
"Yup. But the important thing is that you're gonna have everything you need, okay? Promise." With another gentle squeeze, he let go and moved to his own bed.
"Jesse, wait," Kaylee called. He raised his head. "Uh, when I'm done with my prayers can you come tuck me in?"
"Sure. Of course, honey." Jesse smiled. "D'you want me to pray with you?" It was an awkward question. Jesse hadn't been raised particularly religious, and his friends had never been the church-going type, but Andrea had been Catholic and he'd gotten used to her routines with Brock when they'd been together.
"Okay," Kaylee piped up. Jesse rose and moved to kneel next to her. A haphazard Our Father later, she listed out, "Please take care of my Mommy and bring my Pop-Pop here. But thank you for Jesse. Please keep him safe, too. And keep him here with me." She crossed herself. "Amen."
Jesse leaned in and hugged her again. She climbed up into bed, bear in hand, and he pulled up the blanket and sheet up to her chest.
"G'night, Kaylee. Sweet dreams."
Kaylee opened one eye and peeked out in front of her. She took a moment to try and figure out where she was. This bed was warm and soft; it wasn't the hard cot that she'd slept on at Miss Autumn's, with the torn sheets and pillows that would get taken away if Miss Autumn got mad.
The big fuzzy bear's soft fur stroked across her chin as she hugged him, before slowly rising with him and getting off the bed, walking across the room. She looked over at the sleeping Jesse, who was lying on his side with his hand over his face.
Jesse was so funny and nice. She missed Pop-Pop and her mom, too, but she felt safe with Jesse. He was sweet and liked to hug a lot. Kaylee lay down next to Jesse's bed, stretched out on the floor, and snuggled Bear-Bear close.
Jesse awoke to find Kaylee crashed on the floor next to his bed. He sighed and stood next to her, leaning down and gently nudging her.
"Hey, sweetheart. Wake up."
She slowly stirred and opened her eyes.
"Hey, Kaylee, why aren't you sleeping in your bed?"
"Wanted to be closer to you," she murmured against her bear.
Jesse didn't know what to say to that.
"Wasn't it uncomfortable?"
"All right," Jesse said, "But I think you ought to try and sleep in your bed tonight. We could try and move the bed a little closer to mine, if that helps. But I don't want you to get sore."
Kaylee slowly stood up.
"Well," Jesse replied, tousling her hair gently. "That's good. I want you to stay okay, though. I need to take care of you and make sure everything's okay. How are you feeling?"
"Good," Kaylee said, "My arms don't hurt anymore."
Jesse blinked his eyes to hold back tears.
"That's good, angel. Do you want to maybe go out and see a movie? That might be fun."
"Sure!" Kaylee said, excited. "I haven't seen a movie in forever."
"Okay, honey, go pick out an outfit and then go head in the shower and get dressed."
Kaylee trotted off into the bathroom, as Jesse let out a little sigh of relief. Well, she seemed easy to please, at least, though Jesse realized with a sickening thud in his heart that that was because she'd spent the last month being treated like crap. A little bit of brattiness and entitledness might've actually been welcome.
But it would come with time. Just like Jesse's new role as father. It was all on his shoulders, and he had no choice but to do it right.
If only there were a manual or something. Then again, maybe there was. Hadn't his parents had parenting books around, after all?
Then again, look at how he'd turned out.
Regardless, he already felt a love swelling in his heart for the little girl. He wanted to protect her from any possible harm.
He hadn't chosen it. Maybe it had chosen him instead.
He was about to go to the movies with his daughter. And that seemed right.