Author's notes: This is nothing more than a fluff piece that I put together while taking a break from writing some other stories. Features Walt, Jesse, Andrea, and Brock. No real spoilers. If you're reading, let me know. :)
Walt was content. They were halfway through a rather typical day at the lab and he had been enjoying the routine. Teamwork with Jesse was good recently. Smooth, efficient, productive. More importantly today, uninterrupted. This was how he wished all of his days were.
"Yo, Mr. White?"
Walter looked up across the lab at his partner. "Yeah?" Jesse was seated in one of the office chairs with wheels and was balancing a glass beaker in his hand like one would palm a ball. Walt watched him apprehensively, expecting the glass to drop to the floor at any moment. Unfortunately these 'typical' days were the type that usually bored Jesse out of his mind.
"Question for you." Jesse placed the beaker down in one piece before he pushed off the wall beside him. The chair slowly but steadily rolled itself in Walt's direction.
Walt watched his approaching partner with a frown. "Are you working or playing?"
The chair stopped a few feet from the older man and Jesse planted his feet flat on the ground, leaning back in the chair to look up at him. "I need to ask for a favor."
Walt hesitated. "What kind of favor?"
Jesse cocked his head to the side and smirked at Walt's wariness. "Is there really anything you wouldn't do? The great Heisenberg?"
"Knowing you?" Walt scoffed. "What's the favor, Jesse?"
"I need help thinking of a science experiment." Jesse noted Walt's confusion. "For Brock," he clarified. "His school is having a science fair, and I said that I would help him make something so he could enter."
"You?" Walt chuckled.
"Yeah, me," Jesse replied defensively. "I was trying to come up with ideas, but it's hard to think of something that would kind of impress him and that..." he paused and then shrugged, "...that I would even know how to do."
"No kidding. It sounds like the blind leading the blind."
Jesse rolled his eyes. "Mr. White... Come on. I just need you to throw out some ideas."
Walter sighed. "Fine. He's how old?"
"Seven..." Walt repeated thoughtfully. He tried to recall when Junior was seven. Was he even taking science at that point? That was... second grade? "Whatever it is, Jesse, just keep it elementary. I mean, I doubt his school is expecting seven year olds to do quantum physics."
"Quantum physics?" Jesse echoed. "Wasn't that a James Bond movie?"
"Jesse..." Walt gave him a look. "Really?"
"Whatever. I just need some ideas, Mr. White," Jesse insisted. "It can be basic stuff but it should be cool. You must have been a part of a million of these science fairs."
"So is the point to impress Brock?" Walt raised his eyebrows. "Or his mother?"
Jesse smiled sheepishly. "Both wouldn't hurt."
Walt saw a glint of true happiness in Jesse's eyes, something he rarely caught a glimpse of, and wondered where this relationship would go. For one reason or another, unfortutunately at times tragically, most of Jesse's relationships didn't last very long. He didn't expect much of the current one based on such a track record. Though at least with a child involved, Jesse was learning something about responsibility. "So what were you thinking so far?"
"I want to do something that the other kids won't do," Jesse answered. "Like explosions or chemical reactions or-"
"No explosions." Walt shook his head.
Jesse looked surprised. "Why not?"
"Because he's seven."
Jesse grew exasperated. "So? Listen, Mr. White. The parents always do the project for their kids. We have to have something that competes. Something that all the other kids will be jealous of. Like explosions."
"I'm sure you can find something that works without creating an explosion in an elementary school." Walt paused.
"I haven't been able to think of anything yet." Jesse made a face.
Walt took a deep breath. "Look, it's nice of you to do this, Jesse. Let me think while we finish the cook and I'll give you some ideas."
Jesse looked up at Walt with a mixture of relief and surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah, sure. I think it's great that you're helping him out. I'm sure they both really appreciate it. I can definitely help think of something."
Jesse grinned. "That's fucking great news. Can you help tonight?"
Walter hesisted. "Tonight?"
"Well, the thing is due Thursday and today is Tuesday so-"
Walt shook his head. "You haven't changed at all, have you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jesse scoffed.
"It means that you were one of the biggest procrastinators in my class, Jesse."
"Yo, I just found out about this!" Jesse insisted. "Can you help tonight or what?"
Walter sighed. Against a strong desire to refuse, he looked at Jesse's hopeful expression and relented. "Fine. Tonight."
It felt weird to be in the grocery store with Walt. Jesse realized that every time they had needed materials in the past, he was usually tasked to purchase them on his own. He remembered those lists that seemed like gibberish and the stress over trying to make sense of what he needed to bring back just to avoid being berated. He was glad Walt hadn't simply given him a list this time.
"So everything we need we can buy here?" Jesse asked, glancing around the supermarket. Despite the fact that this was a very different type of shopping list, Walt's old instructions rang in his memory like law: never buy everything in one place. But it was unlikely that anything they would be making this time would be illegal.
"Yes, everything is here," Walter answered. "It's not rocket science."
"Can it be?" Jesse asked. As Walt gave him a reproachful look, he persisted, "It can't be lame, Mr. White."
"Do you want help or not?" Walt grew impatient.
"Honestly? Not if it's going to be lame."
Walter shot him an irritated look. While initially flattered, he was also slightly surprised that Jesse had asked for his help, considering the million or so available resources for children's science projects that existed both online and in books. Then he realized that Jesse was probably just too lazy to do the research himself.
You should have said no, Walt. Especially if it's going to involve all of this complaining.
Unfortunately, he had already committed himself. He tried to appease himself by remembering that the efforts would benefit a child.
"You asked for my help, and I'm helping. Let's just buy what we need and do this, Jesse," he said.
"Fine," came the passive response.
"Good. So let's find the baking aisle..."
Jesse followed Walt to the baking aisle silently and decided to hold his tongue. No use in risking losing Walt's help. The claim that he had just found out about the fair was false. He'd known for a week. And if he hadn't thought of anything on his own in that time, it wasn't going to happen without Walt.
He watched Walt look up and down the shelves, taking one item, then walking a few feet and pulling another. Jesse neared him to get a better look.
Vinegar and baking soda.
Suddenly he realized the experiment and groaned. "Mr. White. No. Everyone makes a volcano."
Walt rolled his eyes. "Everyone?"
"Yes. Everyone," Jesse affirmed.
"That's highly unlikely, Jesse. Why are you making this so difficult?"
"I'm not trying to," Jesse objected. "I just thought you'd have some cooler ideas since you're, like, actually into science and all. You know, at least something that would stand out from every other goddamn soccer mom."
"Look, your other option is you do this alone. I don't have all night." Walt's patience began to grow thin.
Jesse moved closer to Walt and lowered his voice. "The only thing I know how to make is make crystal meth." He gave Walter a hard look. "I didn't think that would be an appropriate topic for a science fair."
"You think?" Walter shot back sarcastically.
"Isn't there anything else we could make?"
"This is what I'm offering. Take it, or leave it."
Jesse let out a deep sigh and crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly. "I don't know."
"Trust me. He'll have fun making the actual volcano," Walter assured. "And honestly, Jesse, it's age appropriate. It's very easy and comes down to two basic ingredients. You can't make it much simpler. For you or a seven year old."
"What about rockets?"
"What? No, Jesse." Walt shook his head. "No rockets. It's this or nothing."
"Fine. A fucking volcano it is," Jesse responded with a scowl. "They might as well call it the fucking volcano fair and not the science fair."
Back at home, Jesse began to think a little differently about the project once he saw the materials laid out on his kitchen counter. He had to admit that Walter had thought of every detail. Food coloring to make it look like red lava, clay to build an actual volcano, dishwashing soap to make it all bubble...
Brock was going to love it.
Walt twisted the cap off two bottles of beer and handed one to Jesse. Beer had been his final and most necessary purchase at the grocery store and he now gladly took a sip.
"I was just thinking, Jesse... I don't remember you ever participating in any of the school's science fairs."
Jesse shrugged. "I didn't. Only once when it was mandatory."
"When was that?"
Jesse paused. "Fourth grade, I think."
"And what was your project?" Walt took another sip of beer.
Jesse exhaled slowly and met Walter's eye with some reluctance. "A volcano," he admitted.
Walt smirked. "No kidding..." He suddenly felt vindicated.
Jesse looked annoyed. "Yeah, the standard cookie-cutter science experiment. Just like everyone else."
"And how did it turn out?"
"Awful," Jesse responded bitterly. He paused to taste his beer. "No one would help me so I tried to do it by myself. I did something wrong, because the whole things was a mess. Exploded. And by exploded, I mean, this stuff was everywhere. The ceiling, the curtains, everywhere." Jesse frowned, thinking back. It seemed so long ago. "My parents were pissed as hell. And then to top it all off, the next day I found out it wasn't even worth getting my ass kicked because every other fucking kid had made a volcano too. Or, even better, their parents had made it for them."
Walter listened with amusement at the thought of a ten year old Jesse mixing chemicals together. "Did you add too much chili powder maybe?"
Jesse's brow furrowed and he glared at Walter. "Fuck you."
"Was it the heartbreaking moment when your love for science died, Jesse?"
"It's seriously not funny, Mr. White. That was a really shitty experience. I don't want Brock to have a shitty experience."
"He won't. He has you helping him," Walt appeased. "And this volcano isn't going to turn out like that."
"And it should be fun."
"It will be." Walt set down his beer. "Okay, so let's get started. You'll build all this other stuff with him, right?" He gestured at the clay and looked up to catch Jesse's nod. "So let's stick to the chemistry." He picked up the box of baking soda. "We start with baking soda. Also known as?"
Jesse stared at him blankly.
"Jesse," Walter persisted. "Humor me. This is basic stuff. What's baking soda also known as?"
Jesse made a face. "Didn't I just say this should be fun?"
"Come on. You know this one."
"This is for a seven year old. He doesn't need to know any of that crap."
Walt sighed. "I'll give you a hint. Sodium..." he said slowly.
Jesse frowned. "Salt?"
"Jesse, really? Baking soda is the same as salt?" Walt shook his head.
"Mr. White..." Jesse complained. "You're being a bitch. Sodium, salt. Whatever."
"Salt is sodium chloride." Walt gave Jesse a disappointed look. "Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Did you learn anything in my class?"
"Why would I have to remember any of that?" Jesse responded. "Where would that have helped me anywhere in life?" He caught Walt's warning look and sighed. "Fine. Sodium carbonate."
"Bicarbonate," Walt corrected.
Jesse groaned and rubbed his hands over his face. "Brock doesn't need to know any of that shit, Mr. White."
"No. He's seven. But you should remember at least some basic things..." Walter sighed. "Anyway. Sodium bicarbonate is a base. The opposite of...?" He met Jesse's once again blank stare. "It's the chemical opposite of...?"
"Please, Me. White." Jesse made a face. "Can you not do this?"
Walter picked up the bottle of vinegar and waved it in front of Jesse's face.
"Don't take this personally," Jesse began, "but I don't remember any of this stuff."
"Of acid," Walt finished sharply. "I guess I taught you nothing."
"It wasn't just you," Jesse offered sympathetically. "I didn't always show up."
"Trust me. I remember. Anyway... The acid we have here is the acetic acid in the vinegar." He reached for the bottle and placed it in front of him. "Actually, it's interesting-"
"Not interesting at all..." Jesse muttered.
Walt shot him a warning look and continued, "Because baking soda is amphoteric, which really just means that it can act as an acid or a base, depending on the nature of the other substance."
"NOT interesting and doesn't matter," Jesse insisted in exasperation. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter. "Come on," he whined. "Just mix them together."
Walter studied Jesse with his little remaining patience. He grabbed a beaker borrowed from the lab and walked over to the sink. He ran the water and filled the beaker partially. "Bring me the soap and the baking soda."
Jesse brought both over and watched Walter add a few drops of soap into the water, and then a little bit of the baking soda.
"How much?" Jesse asked.
"What?" Walter looked up.
"Last time I did this, it exploded," Jesse reminded. "How much do I use?"
"Just a few drops of soap for effect. Maybe four or five. And about..." Walter shrugged. "Maybe two tablespoons of baking soda."
"Is this where we would put in food coloring?"
"If you want," Walt answered, swirling the beaker gently to blend the mixture. "Bring the vinegar. We'll keep it over the sink." When Jesse returned with the vinegar, he gestured at the beaker. "Go ahead. Pour slowly. Not too much."
Jesse reached over with the bottle of vinegar and slowly poured. He watched the combination of chemicals as the volcano-like effect took place and grinned.
"Good, Jesse..." Walt watched him. "You should let Brock do this part." The reaction bubbled up bigger and bigger, and overflowed into the sink. "Do you know what the reaction is called?" Walter asked.
"Yeah. It's called, explosion, bitch!" Jesse exclaimed. He watched the bubbling reaction increase. "That's actually pretty awesome. And we'll make it all red like lava and shit. I don't know what the hell I did wrong in fourth grade. That's really not that hard."
"What if he asks you what makes it have that reaction?" Walter asked.
"He's not going to care," Jesse answered.
"Neutralization. Like a carbonated soda if you shook it."
"I'm probably not going to remember that." Jesse eyed him tentatively, almost apologetically. "Would you really care if I don't teach him a single thing you just said?"
"Not really," Walt admitted. "He's seven. But you can't blame me for trying to teach you."
"You failed once already," Jesse answered with a smirk. As a darker look crossed Walt's face, he corrected himself, "Okay, fine, I failed." He paused, dropping his gaze for a moment. "But you're right, Mr. White. Volcanos are actually pretty cool." He looked up. "Thank you."
"Sure, Jesse." Walt smiled and patted him on the back. "I hope he likes it."
Andrea was surprised and flattered when Jesse showed up with the materials for the science experiment the next day. "What's all this?" she asked, gesturing at the bag in Jesse's hands.
"Science," Jesse answered. "Where's the little man?"
"He's in the kitchen," she answered, smiling. "Really? Is this for the science fair? I know you said you would help, but-"
"Of course." Jesse returned the smile. They walked together towards the kitchen and entered to find Brock coloring at the table.
"Hey, Brock," Andrea began. "Honey, looks who's here."
Brock grinned when he looked up. "Jesse!"
"Hey, buddy," Jesse began. He raised up the bag. "Are you ready for some science?"
Brock smiled wider. "We're going to do real science?"
"Yeah, real science," Jesse answered, already pleased at Brock's eagerness. He loved the innocence of his age. He wished he could feel the same. "We're going to make a volcano."
Brock's eyes grew larger and he jumped up from his seat. "A real one?"
"Of course," Jesse affirmed. "For your science fair."
"Yup. With lava and everything."
"Is this going to be messy?" Andrea asked with a laugh. "This sounds like a backyard kind of experiment."
Jesse eyed her with a smile. "Probably a good idea..." Brock was already in front of him, reaching up to look into the bag he'd brought.
Andrea caught Brook's hand and laughed. "Honey, go upstairs and put something on that Mommy doesn't mind getting dirty," Andrea said. "Then you can play with Jesse."
Brock darted out of the room in excitement and they could hear his little feeting pounding up the stairs to his room.
Andrea turned to Jesse. "So you're a scientist now, huh?"
He smiled and looked into her soft, brown eyes fondly. "Everyone needs a hobby."
"So when do I get to play with the scientist?" She moved to close the space between them. "I have some experiments I'd like to try out..."
"Oh, really?" he answered with a laugh. "In that case, whenever you want..."
She smiled and placed her arms around his waist. "I didn't think you would remember," she began. "About the science fair... I mean, I mentioned it a little while ago, and... honestly I wasn't even thinking about it. I didn't want him to get his hopes up."
"I said I would help," he insisted.
"You did," she admitted. She stepped back and looked at him affectionately. "Thank you. It means a lot that you remembered. To both of us."
Brock came running back into the kitchen wearing a t-shirt that looked like it had been part of a painting disaster. "Ready, Jesse?" he persisted.
"Ready if you're ready," Jesse answered.
"Backyard," Andrea told both of them. "I don't think I want this in my kitchen."
Brock clapped his hands excitedly and headed towards the door.
Jesse headed to the backyard behind the two of them and felt like a king.
Volcanos and cookie-cutter didn't seem so lame after all.