The gunshot is the last thing he remembers. He still hears it, still hears the ringing silence it'd left behind, still sees Andrea's face and the way she fell, limp as a doll.


The pop of the gun. The silence. The ringing (ringing, ringing) white noise.

He thinks maybe he was wrong, maybe his mind had played a trick on him. Todd had missed, hadn't fired at all, hadn't caught him, hadn't – didn't – couldn't –


The pop of the gun. This time it's Drew Sharp, the boy on the bike, waving.


This time it's Brock on the bike, with the trusting eyes and smile. He falls like Drew fell like Andrea fell like he's falling and he can't

There are hands on Jesse's head, cupping the sides of his face, anchoring. Calloused fingers rasp against the tender skin of his battered cheek, and the pain (the different sort of pain) jolts him. His brain presses fast-forward, and he's back in the present, in his miserable, battered, shivering body.

Back in Hell.

He's in the compound, in his prison, and Todd is there, caressing his uninjured cheek with the same hand that had fired the gun.

Todd is makes low shushing sounds, his voice gentle, almost soft, like he's trying to calm a spooked animal. Jesse feels like little else. But he knows somewhere past the shock and horror and guilt that, of the two of them, he's not the animal.

Jesse realizes then that he is whimpering, that his throat is raw and that he tastes blood (he doesn't remember screaming).

His head fucking hurts, and he doesn't care.

"Hey," Todd says, still in that whisper-soft voice, "hey, hey. It's alright. It's over now. It had to be done. You know that. I tried to tell you. I really did. I'm sorry, Jesse."

The way he says it, all sweet and earnest. Like it's Jesse's fault, really.

"Fuck you," Jesse snarls in a jagged voice. He pushes, shoves, but Todd pulls. Todd crushes Jesse to his chest in a sick imitation of a hug, one hand stroking down his back (again, the words "spooked animal" come to mind).

"Fuck. You."

Jesse shoves, claws, pounds his fists against Todd's chest. Todd sighs, thins his lips, and then Jesse is thrown to the ground, arms pinned behind his back. The impact paints more bruises across his face and shoulder, makes pain spark across his skull. Nausea grips his stomach, and he swallows bile.

Todd holds him there, nose pressed to concrete, until Jesse sags. Another sigh, and then Todd lets go and sits back on his haunches. Jesse curls around his stomach and stares at the wall, tracing the shapes of stains he now knows by heart.

"I really am sorry," Todd says, still so calm, so reasonable. "At least she went peaceful, you know? I made sure of it. She didn't feel a thing, didn't even see the gun. No pain, no fear. Real humane."

A part of Jesse wants to rear up, to show him some inhumane things, but most of him just doesn't see the point.

Todd says something else, but Jesse doesn't hear. He thinks of the photograph by his mattress and realizes the flaw in his escape plan: he shouldn't have tried to escape at all.

He should have found a way to kill himself instead.

His teeth are clattering together, and he realizes he's shaking. The blanket falls over his shoulders.


Todd is back in his field of vision, eyes wide in almost-concern.

"Do you understand? I need to make sure you understand."

Jesse's voice is sandpaper-rough. "Yeah. Yeah I get it." He stares past Todd at the dirt-streaked wall. "If I don't cooperate, you'll do the same to Brock."

Todd nods, smiles softly, almost sadly. "I think you and I have come to an understanding," he says. "That's good, Jesse. That's good."

Todd sits up again and squeezes Jesse's shoulder. "Get some rest, okay?"

Jesse stares at the wall and doesn't notice when he leaves.