Title: nothing failed in vain

Characters: Jesse Pinkman, Badger, Skinny Pete, Combo

Warnings: Drug use (recreational); underage drug use; teenage sexuality; sexual content.

Written for the Breaking Bad kink meme prompt: "ragging on Mr White in class. kissing and then getting embarrassed over it. getting high and touching each other without the embarrassment. jesse's first big hoodie belongs to badger."

"Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows." - John Betjeman

Edit: apologies for the html fail; hopefully it won't eat my formatting this time.

Brandon Mayhew meets Jesse Pinkman on a Tuesday, in the fall of 1994. Brandon knows him primarily as the kid that wears stupid sweater vests the first day of school every year, and the fact that they both wait on the same curb for their rides after school for the last couple of years. Brandon's sister comes all the way from J.P. Wynne every day and picks him up in her Lumina and occasionally she takes him with her to her equally cool friends' house, where he can usually get some pretty decent mac'n'cheese if he plays his cards right. All he has to do is watch cartoons and stay out of the garage where they play with their band. Jesse usually goes with what Brandon assumes is his mom, not that he's creeping or anything.

There's no particular impetus; Brandon looks down the street on this particular Tuesday, sees Jesse sitting on the bus bench, and decides to walk over. He is bored, his sister is late, and Jesse is doing something odd.

Jesse doesn't look up until Brandon is right in front of him, scuffing his shoes on the cement and dropping what looks like cracker crumbs on the sidewalk. "Hey." Brandon says.

"Yeah?" Jesse says, squinting up at Brandon. He's pretty shrimpy, Brandon thinks. He reminds him of his friend Petey, before Petey started going to Sunset View instead. They keep in touch.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing," Jesse says, but now that Brandon's close he can see a small horde of ants picking up the cracker bits and making orderly lines into a hole just under the bench. Brandon thinks this is sort of peculiar, but decides to be nice and not say anything if Jesse doesn't want to talk about it.

"You got a smoke, man?" Brandon has never smoked in his life, but it's something he's long aspired to. His sister smokes Lucky Strikes, can even make smoke rings, and she's cool as anything.

"No," Jesse said, frowning. He glances passed Brandon, maybe looking for his parents' car, then rubs his palms on his jeans. They're nice; the ones Brandon's mom says you are supposed to be careful to not wear out because they cost extra and have nice stitches. "My parents would kill me."

Brandon doesn't know what else to say, so he sits by him, careful not to step on Jesse's ants. "Hi. My name's Brandon." He sticks out his hand to shake on it.

"Jesse," Jesse tells him, but he already knew that, and they shake.

They sit in companionable silence for a few minutes, watching the ants, before Brandon gets bored. "Hey, so, what do you know about Star Trek?"

It's the start of a beautiful friendship.

It's middle school when things start to get a little weird. Brandon's just starting to get over his week-long whirlwind romance with Jenny, who's got braces and an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars (he doesn't hold it against her because Lightsabers are pretty cool, he guesses, even if phasers are way better). Him and Jesse are pretty much best friends. Brandon thinks Jesse's pretty smart, and the guy has an almost magical ability to bum smokes from almost anybody. They smoke them in the football field bleachers, passing the cigarette back and forth, and shoot the shit. Brandon puked the first time they did, and they totally left it, like a couple of outlaws.

Sometimes it feels like Jesse feels sorry for him—not in a rich kid way, like Brandon kind of expected a long time ago, but in a degrees of loser kind of way. Jesse totally pretended not to see him start to tear up like a baby when Jenny handed him the note telling him it was over, even let Brandon have his churro like a champ. Jenny was pretty much the love of Brandon's life, he's certain, and it's nice that Jesse's trying to cheer him up with smokes and churros and all, but he knows it's all downhill from here.

"No, man, Birdo's totally Yoshi's girlfriend. They are like the same species, it's natural."

"They are not. She spits eggs out of her mouth."

"Out of her vagina, dude, that's where eggs come from, don't you know? She's got mouth vagina! Yoshi is definitely tapping that." Brandon stands up and humps the air, only stopping when Jesse shoves him. "That's like the best of both worlds," Brandon says, even though the closest he's gotten to actual sex was that time Jenny let him put his hand in her pants but outside her underwear but he totally felt her junk, and he's mostly sure Jesse's a virgin too, probably.

Jesse mulls this over for a long moment, taking a drag on their cigarette. It's nearly to the filter. He holds the smoke like a pro, then exhales it all at once. "Okay… but Yoshi lays eggs too."

"Yeah? So?" Brandon reaches for the cigarette, plucks in right out from between Jesse's fingers, and steals the last few puffs. He blows the smoke out his nose because it makes him feel like a freaking dragon, like how his sister showed him to before she went to college.

"So Yoshi's a girl."

"Nah, dude, Yoshi's totally a guy." Brandon frowns. Jesse does have a point. He flicks the butt over the side without crushing it down, and Jesse shoves him again.


"You're gonna start a fire."

"Oh, come on, are you my mom now?" Brandon rolls his eyes. "What, do you want me to go get it or something?"

"Whatever." Jesse shrugs, looking away.

Brandon feels a little bad despite himself, and hops to his feet. "Jee-zuhs, don't pitch a fit, I'll go get it." He takes the stairs to the guard rail two at a time, half hopping. He steps up on the first rung, then the second, standing on the rail with his arms out to catch his balance. It's a good seven, maybe eight feet to the ground, and he feels like he could fly in an instant, just soar out. "Hey. Hey, I'm Kate Winslet, come hold me. My heart will go on."

"You're gonna fall, dude. Let's just go." Jesse stands up, starting to head for the exit ramp.

Brandon laughs, turning carefully around, already starting to lose his balance. "You worried, Jesse? Wh—"

"Hey! Hey, are you kids smoking up there?" One of the terrifying high school teachers is standing at the end of the bleachers, like a creeper. He points accusingly at them. "You stay right there, you hear me?"

"Run!" Brandon turns and leaps away before he can think better of it, and bellyflops it hard right into the packed dirt. He wheezes as the wind is knocked right out of him, and gasps in a huge lungful of grit on top of all that cigarette smoke. He grunts, tries to spit, and looks over dazedly toward the far stairs, where the teacher has frozen in shock. A few feet away is that stupid cigarette, smoldering in the on the out zone line. Somewhere behind him he can hear Jesse shout, then his sneakers pounding down the stairs and through the dirt and to Brandon.

"Oh, my god— is he okay? Do I need to call an ambulance?"

"Hey, get up, we gotta go!" Jesse pulls on Brandon's arm, heaves him up and by some miracle he gets his knees up under himself, wobbles to his feet.

"Did you see that shit?" Brandon asks, stumbling after Jesse, pulled off balance by his frantic tugging. He probes his teeth with his tongue, and finds his right incisor loose. Fuck. If it falls out, his mom is gonna skin him alive. "I almost lost a tooth, man."

"Run, bitch!"

Brandon picks up the pace as best he can, sure that he is in so much shit, he is a dead man walking. His whole chest stings, he's probably got like broken ribs or some shit, and he's totally gonna die and it's that faggoty teacher's fault. Brandon holds up his free hand, looking back over his shoulder as they run and flips that tool the bird. The teacher shouts, doing a stupid old man jog after them, and Brandon laughs and falls flat on his face again. Stupid freaking shoes tripped him.

"Oh my god," Jesse hisses, and pulls him up from under the armpits and gets Brandon going again. "Come on, come on!"

They duck through the hole in the back of the chain link and they're free, cutting across open yards and laughing like a couple of convicts. Brandon looks back one more time to flip that douche the double whammy birdie, and then they're gone, and they don't stop until they are halfway to Brandon's place, at the kiddie playground. Breathless, giddy, they throw their arms over each other's' shoulders, swaying over to the the merry-go-round. They sit on either side of the bar, laughing themselves sick.

"God, I think I pissed myself a little," Brandon brags, flopping down onto his back, arms stretched out. It hurts, and his pits stink from the sweat, so he pulls them back to his side immediately, hoping Jesse didn't notice.

Jesse laughs, then looks back the way they came. "Do you think he recognized us?"

"Nah, man, he doesn't know shit. I think my ribs are like busted, though, I'm probably gonna have to go to the hospital."

"Bullshit. Lift up your shirt." Jesse gets up and stands between his spread legs, tugging at the bottom of his dusty shirt. He's radiating heat; the sun is right behind him, making Brandon have to squint just to look at him. It makes him uncomfortable, and he's not even sure why. His belly flip-flops when Jesse's fingers touch the soft skin next to his belly button.

"Hey, no, don't be gay," Brandon rolls onto his side, crossing his arms over his stomach, then sits up. "How will you even be able to tell?"

"I don't know, just see if anything's like, sticking out. Or giving." Jesse looks so freaking hangdog it makes Brandon feel like an ass. He scoffs, then quickly pulls up his shirt to his just below his nipples, hyper aware of the baby fat that is absolutely never going away. Jesse doesn't say anything, though, just bends down to look. He presses his palms on either side of Brandon's ribs, and it hurts, yeah, but not unbearably, and it doesn't feel like anything's wiggling. "You look alright, I guess. You're getting a bruise here." His finger presses briefly between his pectoral and his sternum, poking right where it hurts most, the asshole. Jesse wrinkles up his nose. "You need a shower though."

Brandon pushes him back and lets his shirt drop back down, his neck flushing even more. He feels tacky and dirty and there's sweat between his toes and his deodorant sucks and Jesse's crouched like right between his legs, like a pervert. "Thanks, Dr. Pinkman," Brandon tells him with a hard eyeroll, which unfortunately lands on his knee, which as it turns out is a bloody pulpy mess.

Like his becoming aware of it triggered the nerves, it starts to hurt more than his aching ribs, and he gasps. His jeans – his nice school jeans – are torn, and a least huge chunk of skin is dangling by a fleshy thread, about the size of his thumb.

Jesse glances down, then gasps, "holy shit!" hands fluttering around, like he thinks he's gonna lay on some healing hands or some bullshit.

"Don't freaking touch it, man!" Brandon hyperventilates, he feels like he's gonna cry even though he is thirteen, he is practically an adult. His eyes start prickling, making him blink hard. He is so dead, these are his nice jeans, these are the ones his mom bought him at the start of the school year and he was doing good, keeping them in decent condition, and now he ruined them forever.

"Hey! Hey, Brandon, don't freak out, it's okay," Jesse sounds panicky, which is making Brandon panic even more. He can't afford new jeans, his mom isn't rich like Jesse's parents, Jesse can't understand—

Jesse bends down and kisses his knee, right next to Brandon's totally disgusting gash. Just, like… does it. Like it's not totally sick to kiss somebody's freaking open wound, right? It shocks Brandon more than anything, makes him feel like he just hit a wall of unreality. Jesse's head is bent right over Badger's lap, like right there, and if anybody looked over, if anybody even saw—

Jesse seems to realize it the moment Brandon does, and pulls back like he's been slapped. "Uh."

Brandon feels like he is swallowing his own tongue, suddenly can't get any air in his lungs. Jesse blushes – freaking blushes – eyes darting every which way. "Stop being such a baby, man, jeez," Jesse says, affecting completely unconvincing disdain, scooting back to sit on his butt on the ground. Brandon zeroes in on his mouth, suddenly hyper aware of his own, how dry it is. There's a spot of blood, right on the middle of Jesse's bottom lip.

"Uh, you got… you got a little…" Badger points vaguely. "On there."

"Shut up," Jesse snaps, scrubbing the back of his sleeve across his mouth. He turns away, pretends to stare into the middle distance down the street.

"That's fucking gross, man."

"Shut up!" Jesse's face gets even redder. He looks down between his own feet and tears up some grass. Brandon wonders if that's what Jesse's mom does – did? – when Jesse biffed it. It makes him feel weird, sort of bad and sort of good at once. "You were the one having a meltdown."

Brandon sits there for a moment more, then reaches out with his foot and taps it against Jesse's perpetually scuffed sneakers. "Yeah. Thanks, man, for, uh. Y'know. Coming back for me."

Jesse shrugs, pretending to be indifferent, but he glances up through his eyelashes and sort of half smiles, and it's a punch to the gut, and Brandon's suddenly, inexplicably over Jenny.

To everyone's surprise, Brandon is the first one to get both his driver's permit and a functional car at fifteen. His sister's old Lumina is sweet as fuck; it's passenger door is a different color than the rest and the trunk is covered in her political and weird shit bumper stickers, but they're pretty cool, he guesses, especially the three different batman stickers, those are awesome. Of course, that means he starts driving his friends to school, or to Petey's piano recitals, and to wherever, now that they have a getaway vehicle. Jesse's mom totally hates the car, he can tell, or maybe she just doesn't like Brandon (he did explain to her and Jake his mouth-vagina theory about Birdo once when he was spending the night, but that's like science, man, you can't get mad at science), and tends to stare disapprovingly when Jesse gets a ride with him. Or maybe she knows he just has his permit, and not like, an actual legal license. He still waves though, because he's polite, even if he secretly thinks she's kind of a bitch and Jesse's dad is kind of a hardass. She does make a mean lasagna, though.

"Hey, dude," Brandon gives Jesse the one arm bro-hug, waving at his mom over Jesse's shoulder. Her frown deepens, but she waves back, a reluctant little wiggle of her fingers before heading right back inside. "What's on the agenda? I'm thinking Frosty's, and Mario Kart at Petey's, and then we can get Paul and Anthony hang out at the laser tag and see if any girls show up and maybe we can get Petey's brother to get us some beer." Of course, they're supposed to be doing homework, but that's bullshit anyways. Next year is high school, and Brandon's sister straight up told him he can get away with basically doing nothing all year as long as he shows up.

"Yeah, sure," Jesse says, glancing back to make sure his mom isn't like, going to get in her car and follow them (Brandon's pretty sure she has.) He buckles in, and, double checking the coast is clear, turns to Brandon with a shit eating grin.


"You want to get some pot?"

"Dude, do you have some? Let me see!" Brandon has never smoked pot before, but it is another thing he's always wanted to do. His sister said it was the shit.

"Not with me, jeez, are you kidding?" Jesse rolls his eyes. "No, I have a friend who totally has a stash. And I, uh. I got some cash." He says it a bit awkwardly, like he expects Brandon to be shocked by the, gasp, revelation his family's not dirt poor. They like live a mansion. Brandon kind of noticed it.

"What, like an allowance?" Brandon laughs, waving once more out the window just to be a jerk.

Jesse shifts around in his seat, sinking down a bit. "…uh. Yeah. I got… allowance." He clears his throat in the most suspicious way ever, and Brandon gives him the stinkeye.

"Hey, wait, this isn't gonna be that Emilio guy, right?" Brandon says, uneasy. Emilio was Jesse's friend, sure, but he was also kind of a dick, and Brandon's pretty sure his cousin is a drug lord. Also, he has like five ferrets, and they stink.

"No," Jesse says, then points up ahead. "Make a left up this way, then head for Edith Boulevard."

Brandon is nervous when they open the gate, keeps expecting cops to roll up on them or something. There's a straight up murder RV right in the driveway, that's the kind of thing Brandon thinks serial killers would use. Jesse doesn't even seem to care, keyed up and practically buzzing. They ring the doorbell, and somewhere inside a dog barks. It seems like they wait out there an eternity, and Brandon is 1000% the old lady down the street knows who he is and what he's doing, but the door opens and this huge dude is standing there, frowning at Brandon.

"Uh, hey."

The guy side eyes him, then looks at Jesse, and immediately brightens. "Hey, Jesse, my man. What's up?" They do the one-armed bro-hug, which Brandon totally thought was his thing, but the guy looks back at him again and he is pretty sure he is gonna get his ass beat.

"Christian, who is it?" Someone calls from inside, and Christian waves vaguely back over his shoulder, then steps aside to let them in.

"It's just Jesse and some friends, mom. Come on in, guys. Take your shoes off."

"Hi, Mrs. Ortega," Jesse calls, kicking off his sneakers. Mrs. Ortega starts talking to him, but Brandon is only half paying attention. He follows suit, hoping his feet don't stink and if they do, it isn't super noticeable. No one comments. The house is cozy in the way Brandon's mom's house is, which is to say cluttered and chaotic. There are a lot of glass chickens in the windowsill, and the fridge is a mass of papers and pictures and old drawings and random magnets. It smells a lot like lemon air freshener and vaguely of dog. He likes it. It doesn't look like how he thought a drug den would.

"The name's Combo," Christian – Combo – tells him, and offers up his fist for a bump. That's alright, Brandon doesn't think he is gonna be in hug territory for a long time. Jesse is way easier to hug than him, anyways.

"Like the crackers?" he says, and immediately backtracks when Combo scowls. "No, man. That's cool."

Jesse pops back up beside Brandon, and claps him on the shoulder. "This is Badger. He's cool." Brandon starts to open his mouth, confused, before realizing he is Badger. Nobody's ever nicknamed him before.

"Badger, huh? That's tight, yo." Combo nods approvingly, then waves them after him. "Come with me."

Jesse graces Badger with an excited grin, then shuffles past and down into the hall after Combo. "Bye, Mrs. Ortega."

Badger approves immensely of the décor in Combo's room. The guy is like an interior designer, it's pretty amazing. He and Jesse sit on the bed while Combo bustles around a minute, getting out warm orange sodas and closing his door with one last peek around the corner. "We gotta keep it down, though. My Nana's staying over and she doesn't like to be woke up, alright?"

"Alright, dude," Badger says. This is even less of what he expected in a drug den. He is somewhat disappointed that it isn't more like Scarface. And, because he's nervous as fuck and his palms are now in perma-sweat mode, he blurts, "Where's the ghanja?"

Combo looks him over again, and then locks eyes with Jesse, like who the fuck is this ass, and sits himself down in his desk chair. Jesse elbows Badger. "What?" he squawks, then cracks open his soda self-consciously. He sits there while Jesse and Combo make some small talk, and yeah, okay, Combo does seem like a pretty legit dude. They start talking about Red Dwarf, which is alright, but it's not nearly as good as Star Trek, and then things are pretty pleasant. Badger's talking about Spock versus Data and how, despite Spock's certified badassery, Data would totally kick his ass in a one on one encounter, when without much fanfare Combo pulls out a couple of fat joints and passes one to Jesse. Badger trails off awkwardly, wondering if he should reach for the other one, or if he and Jesse are going to share like they did way back when.

"This is the same stuff as before, right?" Jesse asks, passing off the spliff to Badger and digging in his pocket for a small stack of cash. Combo pockets it without counting, which is pretty cool of him.

"Yeah, Jesse, I wouldn't try to screw you over. Have some faith." Combo grins, and it's pretty infectious because they all grin back like a bunch of dopes and they haven't even—wait.

"You smoked before?" Badger asks, and it really shouldn't, but it kind of hurts his feelings. He was sure he and Jesse were going to try all their drugs for the first time together, like the cigarette's and Petey's beer and that stuff that was supposed to be E but turned out to be nausea tablets.

"You ever toke up?" Combo asks, and Badger reluctantly shakes his head. "First one is on the house. Here, take it." He hands over the spliff, and Badger takes it gingerly. It's hand-rolled and smells kind of lemony, kind of sweet, like his sister's car sometimes did. He isn't sure what end he's supposed to smoke, they both look the same, but he doesn't want to look like an idiot, so he nods all cool and stuffs it in his pocket.

"Hey, what are you doing? Let's light it up!" Combo laughs, rocking back in his desk chair. "Don't worry, it's totally fine."

"Okay," Badger says. He spins the joint a few times between his fingers, uncertain, when Jesse plucks it from him.

"Here, let me get it started for you." Jesse pops it into his mouth, graciously takes Combo's lighter and quick as anything it's lit and curling smoke like lazy dragons. Jesse smiles like he just did some sort of trick, and flips it around for Badger, easy as you please. Combo laughs again, inexplicably, and stands up. "Smoke that, don't get any ashes on the floor, don't burn anything, and I'll be right back with some Doritos."

Badger almost asks why not combos, but thinks better of it at the last moment. He puffs hard on the joint, like he would with a cigarette, and starts coughing the second it touches his lungs. It's rough, he thinks, way rougher than what he's used to, and his throat starts to ache. Badger curls on himself, feeling lightheaded and he's sure he's not high, he just feels sort of cheated. He thought it would be like the beer, all giddy satisfaction and a quick fix. This is just—not what he was expecting.

He coughs a few more times, and Jesse pats his back. "Here," he takes the joint from Badger, holding it between his lips but not drawing yet, and leans Badger back. "Coughing's good, man. It took me a few hits to get over it. Let me…" It's hard to tell in the dim lighting, but Badger's pretty sure Jesse's blushing a little, just a little, but that might be his eyes watering. Jesse takes a long draw, holds it, and sort of coughs, trying not to despite what he just said. He exhales it all, slow and easy, then takes another puff and holds it like a pro. Badger is for one moment offended – what, is he gonna smoke all of Badger's free joint? – but then Jesse puts his hand on Badger's shoulder, and pivots him, and he's leaning in, and for a dazed moment Badger thinks he's gonna kiss me, but that's stupid and then he is, Jesse Pinkman is freaking kissing Badger, and his mouth drops open in shock, and Jesse breathes the smoke into him and it's just—it's smooth and easy and it tastes a little like orange soda under everything and—

Badger maybe – maybe! – starts to a little press back, and maybe he thinks about sliding his tongue forward, but who wouldn't really? He's a horny teenager and sure, Jesse's definitely a not in any way a girl (Badger has seen him shirtless and once maybe glanced back when they were getting dressed for bed a few years ago and totally saw his junk), but who just ups and kisses somebody and not expect a reaction? Seriously.

There's this obscenely long, tense moment after the smoke is gone, where Jesse just stays, his mouth almost kissing Badger, almost pressing, but instead he just winds back again, just enough distance to look each other in the eye. Badger isn't sure if he is more disappointed or relieved. They stare at each other, and Badger thinks, maybe, and like he heard him, Jesse, scoots back, practically jams the joint in his hands. Badger works his jaw soundlessly for a moment, but then Combo comes back with the promised Doritos and Jesse's talking to him and it's like nothing freaking happened when it did, it totally did, Badger is pretty sure.

Badger smokes almost the whole thing before anyone thinks to take it from him.

It's been four months since The Thing That Happened and they still haven't talked about it. And yeah, sure, maybe Badger imagined the whole thing, but he doesn't think he's that gay. Almost as soon as he got home, he got out his stolen swimsuit catalogues and whacked off, desperately relieved when he still got off to girls and tits and lady booties. He never tests the theory that he can get off to Jesse, because, that's, that's just a whole can of worms he doesn't need opened. But Jesse's there, kind of, in a weird, Sub Rosa ghost way, because Badger is specifically not thinking about him, and that, weirdly enough, makes Jesse sort of complicit in Badger's wanking.

He tries all of once to imagine him and Jesse, growing old together and doing the stuff that you do with girls, and it just feels too surreal. He can't even imagine really fucking Jesse, like, in the butt like guys do, or letting Jesse stick it to him, but he can imagine kissing him, and maybe touching each other a little. He knows he loves Jesse, Jesse is his friend, but he can't be in love with Jesse, because he likes girls, and Jesse likes girls, and maybe they could like share a girlfriend, which would be pretty cool, and that was where he got derailed.

It's a little weird between them for a while. Jesse brings a joint or two a couple times, a little peace offering, and once they smoke one together, but it's awkward as fuck and Badger ends up feeling watched and judged even though it is just them on Jesse's bed with the window open and his parents out. Of course, Badger always feels judged in Jesse's house, but it's probably okay because he thinks Jesse feels like that, too.

Which is probably why it doesn't surprise him too much when Jesse gets kicked out. Like, who the fuck does that? It's supposed to be temporary, him living with his Aunt Ginny (who is pretty alright, for an old fart), but Jesse seems more pissed off by that than anything. He starts toking up more, maybe as a fuck you, but it's something Badger can definitely get behind. Which, okay, maybe he just wants to hang out and get high with his one of his best friends, but when Jesse asks if Badger's mom will mind if he comes over, Badger is pretty quick to let him.

And all this leads to how Jesse is sprawled out across Badger's bed, joint in hand, his leg brushing Badger's leg, watching the Wrath of Khan, which is arguably the best movie ever, squeaking out just before Mad Max and Jurassic Park, because dinosaurs are cool, yo. Badger keeps glancing up at the door, 'cause, yeah, Jesse has always been amazed with the fact that Badger's door locks (Jesse's family is weird), but Jesse has never locked it himself, which is… what? Some covert signal? Badger doesn't even fucking know, and it's making him anxious as balls.

"So, how's Combo doing?" Badger asks about halfway through, because this is actually murdering him.

Jesse sort of shrugs, somehow managing to be both aloof and surly. "He's alright, I guess."

"That's cool." Badger picks at the hem of his pajamas. "Look, if you want to talk or—"

Jesse cuts him off at the pass. "I've seen this like a bajillion times, man. Don't you got anything else?"

"What's wrong with Khan?" Badger shakes his head, but holds up his hands in defeat and scrambles around Jesse's apparently totally immobilized body. He fishes out his VHS box from under the bed and starts sorting through it. More than half of them are recorded from the TV, with the masking tape title strips to prove it. "Alright, I've got Terminator, RoboCop, and Land Before Time, and Predator—"

"What? Land Before Time, seriously?" Jesse laughs like he can't believe it, but Badger doesn't need to defend that shit, Land Before Time is hardcore.

"Dinosaurs, man." He gets near the bottom and stops. He picks up the unmarked VHS, the only unmarked VHS, and rolls it between his palms. "So you wanna see something new, huh?"

"Yeah, sure, whatever," Jesse mumbles, then takes a long toke. Badger gets up off the floor, still holding the VHS. "What? What is it?" Badger stands there, considering, then sets it on top of his TV. He goes to the door, opens it quiet and careful as he can, and peeks down the hall. His mom is either watching the news or fell asleep with it still on, but either way, she won't be disturbing them. He quietly closes the door again, and slides home the lock. When he turns around, Jesse is sitting up, and staring at him like he's a freak. Badger just goes back to the VHS and ejects Khan, carefully sliding it back into its case and putting in the VHS. He turns the volume way down, almost inaudible, just in case. His mom respects his privacy, but he isn't sure if she respects it this much.

"What the fuck, Badger, what—" And the tape clicks on, and the wet smack of fucking comes on with a bang. Jesse freezes, wide-eyed, caught between guilt and fascination. "Uh."

Badger sits by him, and they're sitting together, and they're watching porn, like dudes should. "You ever watch it before?"

"Yeah," Jesse answers, distractedly glancing at him sidelong, but Badger's pretty sure the answers actually no. But he doesn't say anything, because he's a good friend even if Jesse's been a bit of an ass lately, and watches his best friend watch porn. Jesse flushes, he blinks a lot, his mouth opens a little and his tongue flicks out and licks his bottom lip. Badger examines him and catalogues every little detail he can and feels hella creepy, but he just can't bring himself to not watch. And Jesse's definitely getting aroused, and Badger is too, just from listening (and maybe, a little, from watching), and it seems like it's an okay moment for Badger to reach out, and touch Jesse's thigh.

Jesse startles, turns and looks Badger dead-on, and his pupils are blown, and Badger slides his hand up and around and presses his palm right against Jesse's dick. "Badger—" His eyelids flutter, he starts breathing fast, and he grabs Badger's wrist with one hand but doesn't really stop him, just sort of holds on. After a few seconds Badger presses in, pushes Jesse down on his back, climbs up between his legs. It's like something right out of the Twilight Zone. He's touching Jesse, Jesse's lying on his bed and Badger is touching him and Jesse isn't doing anything to stop him, even when he starts undoing Jesse's fly. Slowly, carefully Badger reaches into Jesse's pants, into his boxers, and touches him, really touches him. Jesse shakes – like, actually, honest-to-god shakes – and makes a soft, undecided sound.

Badger can't help it; he shushes Jesse and presses their foreheads together, willing Jesse to meet his eyes. He doesn't, but Badger doesn't hold it against him. He's a little off kilter himself. "It's not gay, man. It's only gay if, like, they touch or whatever." He rubs his thumb over Jesse's cheek, kisses his temple, and reaches back into his pants. Jesse is hard as a rock, hot and damp and trapped under his boxers. Badger levers his pants partway off, as far as he can with Jesse laying there paralyzed. It's feels a little like the anticipation Badger gets when he's on a roller coaster, where you reach the part of the tracks right before the drop, or flip flopping sensation he sometimes gets when he's trying to jump a fence and for a second doesn't think he can until he's over. Jesse's not saying no, Jesse hasn't even begun to say no, so Badger wraps his sweating palm around the shaft, lets his index finger slide over the head, and Jesse breaks just like that.

"Oh, jesus," Jesse chokes. He sits up on his elbow in an abrupt, aborted movement, like he might push Badger away, might— might kiss him, but Jesse stops there, half up, biting his lip. Badger takes it as the yes he bizarrely, breathlessly wants, and jacks him, hard and slow and tight, all the way to the base. "Oh, oh please…" Jesse's hips stutter to life, robotically twitching up. Badger lets Jesse's dick slide in and out of his palm, flexes his fingers around the head as it goes through, squeezes a little tightly around the base just to hear Jesse gasp. It feels off, doing it backwards, doing what he likes to do to himself on another guy, makes him feel like he's in some freaky ass mirror world. But it's good, too, makes him want to hump down onto Jesse's trapped thigh, and if he couldn't imagine fucking him before, he sure as shit can now.

Badger leans in, hesitates, then kisses his cheek. Just a peck, like a grandma kiss, holy fuck. Jesse grimaces, reaches up and pushes against Badger's forehead, which somehow transforms into his fingers wrapping together around the back of Badger's neck. "Aw c'mon, don't…" Badger never finds out what comes after don't because Jesse has pulled him down into his orbit and their mouths are crushing together, teeth clacking, noses pressed into cheeks and he grinds down on Jesse's thigh and Jesse fucks up into his hand and he feels dizzy. He reverses his hand, and it's uncomfortable, yeah, but it's easier at this angle to really jerk him, and he sets to it with a speed and an aggressiveness he didn't know he had. Jesse cries out right against his mouth, and Badger's heart stutters, sure that someone heard him, they're gonna get caught but he can't stop now, if he stops who knows what the fuck might happen.

Jesse moans, and his fingers scrabble at Badger's pajama pants, tugging them out of the way, and this is a fucking great idea, why didn't Badger think of it sooner—

"Oh, shit," Badger rasps, as both of Jesse's hands close around him, one jacking him off, the other squeezing his shaft, knuckles knocking against his balls. Jesse is providing his own soundtrack, the porn totally forgotten, soft little panting moans that sound like Badger is wrenching them free, ripping them right out of his throat. And the thought of Jesse's throat of his mouth, and Badger's dick, is enough to drop kick him into orgasm. He thrusts desperately into Jesse's hands, can't help but whine as he just comes and comes and comes until he feels wrung out and empty. And he keeps jerking Jesse, just needs him to come, needs to see, "c'mon, Jesse, please—"

Jesse does, his whole body freezing up and he goes dead quiet and that's his come, that is Jesse's come spilling all over Badger's fingers, dripping onto his shirt, hot and wet and everywhere. They sit there, breathing like marathon runners even though it couldn't have been more than a few minutes, until Jesse groans, and his voice sounds absolutely shredded, and Badger realizes he's still squeezing his cock. He lets go, braces himself on his forearms on either side of Jesse's head. "Holy shit."


Badger's arms give out, sends him sprawling across Jesse's narrow chest. Jesse grunts, but doesn't really object. Their cocks press together – shit, they're touching, now it's totally gay – wet and oversensitive but he doesn't have it in him to move yet, not with Jesse's pulse pounding in his ear and their legs all tangled together and bliss still rocketing through his veins. Somewhere far away VHS clicks over to bluescreen.

It's nice, for a few minutes, until it's not. Badger becomes aware of how sticky they are, and Jesse is a bony freaking pillow, and Badger doesn't want, like, their dicks to get glued together by come or something, so he rolls onto his side, leaving his leg and his arm draped over Jesse. He listens hard, but he doesn't hear his mom moving around, so they must be in the clear. Badger starts to speak, has to stop to clear his throat. He whispers, "Hey. Are you awake?"


"Are you gonna spend the night tonight?" Badger kind of really wants him to and really doesn't, all at once. Are they boyfriends now? "I've got extra pajamas if you need some. They're clean." They're probably clean.

Jesse makes a face, then rolls his head to the side to stare at Badger. He really seems to think about it, then sighs. "No, I don't think so. I told my Aunt I'd be back tonight for dinner." He levers himself up and swings his legs off the bed, and Badger feels a pang of regret. Not a lot, just like an itty bitty one.

He watches Jesse hike his pants back into place, putting himself in order. And when Jesse's all respectably covered up, Badger sorts himself out, belatedly realizing he was just sitting there with his dick hanging out.

Jesse, meanwhile makes a soft, horrified noise, and plucks at the hem of his shirt.


"Dude, I've got spunk all over my shirt." He pivots around and points at his shirt, and, yup, there are several gobs of certified baby batter on it. Badger can't tell which ones are his and which are Jesse's, which strikes him as kinda funny and kinda hot. "I can't go back like this!"

"It's alright, I got you covered," Badger hums, happy as anything, and crawls to the end of his bed. He spends a few moments fishing around until he finds a nice big hoodie, and tosses it to Jesse. "You can keep it."

Jesse rolls his eyes, but pulls it on and zips it up all the way anyways, the prude. "I'm not your girlfriend. I'll give it back on Monday." He looks hilariously tiny in it.

"Dude, no, it's got jizz in it now, you keep it."

Jesse stands there a moment longer, rocking back on his heels, and Badger wonders if he's gonna come over and kiss him, and what he'll do if he does, but all Jesse does is mumble, "I'll wash it," then he's out the door just like that.

Jesse wears it to school on Monday. Badger never does get it back.

They don't even make out for the rest of the year. Jesse comes over for the weekends, and it's like old times, by which Badger means an entirely sexless purgatory. It just doesn't happen, not even once. Badger isn't sure how to initiate, he kind of just imagined them having mad sex like, all the time. He even buys condoms, yo. The closest he gets is that time when Jesse is passing him a note in Mr. White's intro class, and he lets their fingers tangle together under the table and holds his hand for like, thirty seconds before just letting him have the freaking note. It's totally stupid, but it makes Badger's chest feel all warm and kind of hummy, like his heart is strumming a mean beat on his ribs.

By the time summer rolls around, Jesse is back living with his parents in some sort of freak prison state. They like straight up mad-dog him, always wanting to know where he is and what he's doing, they even call Badger's house and ask his mom what they're up to, but she plays it totally cool. His mom is pretty boss. And once when Badger is over at Jesse's, they totally flip out and go through Jesse's stuff, trying to pretend they're not chewing Jesse out and trying to sound all reasonable and Badger just has to sit there on the couch with Jake, acting like nothing's going on and practically jittering out of his skin because he's holding Jesse's stash in his bag and if Jesse's parents decide to go through his shit he is so screwed. Jesse stands with his back against the wall at the end of the hall, like a kid in time out, staring down at his feet while his mom is practically crying about fucking weed, man, that's not even hardly a drug. It's pretty much the worst night of Badger's life, like, ever.

It just sucks.

So, when school rolls back around, it's like parole, and Jesse is free to come over again, and, yeah, they do homework, but they light up more because fuck that noise. They even start going to the dumbass school dances just as a pretext to escaping, and, well, it's as good a place as any, and Badger sort of pushes Jesse into the wall when they get outside and out of the sodium lights, and just starts to kiss him. Jesse stands there for a bit, lets Badger wrap his hands around his hips, letting him do all the work, before he sighs and starts to kiss him back, slow and easy. He sucks a little hickey into Badger's throat, winds his arms around Badger's waist and drags him in, let's Badger cover him completely. It's good, even if Badger's not really getting hard.

"Fags!" Some guy starts yelling, and Jesse doesn't even look for the guy, just shoves out from under Badger's arm and starts walking away, shoulders hunched.

Badger looks over at the dude, flips him the bird, and follows. School dances are lame, anyways.

Badger's not freaking out, okay.

Anthony's an alright dude, but his friends are creepy as fuck, and Badger is pretty sure everyone other than him and Jesse and Anthony and Paul and Emilio and Petey are like, in their twenties or thirties, and it's weird. There are three different strobe lights going at different times, which is just stupid and gives him a motherfucker of a headache, and the beer is pretty much piss, he's sure. He's sharing joints with people who could be his dad. He saw a girl straight up shooting up heroin in the bathroom, and this is definitely what he thought a drug den would look like. He wants to leave, but he can't be the one to say it 'cause he's not a pussy or anything, but he doesn't know any of these guys and it just sucks, this party totally sucks big hairy balls.

Badger is hanging out with Paul for lack of better options. Petey's throwing up outside and Jesse fucked off to who knows where, so whatever, man. Paul is dealing out cards for go fish, but he's a shitty shuffler so everyone keeps getting a billion matches right out of the gates. Badger even offers to shuffle, but Paul gets all offended, and cuts him out of the next hand so he has to sit there like a yutz and wait for the game to be over.

After an eternity of Paul's bullshit, Petey returns, look like total crap. Badger laughs at him, but scoots his butt over to give him room and Petey flops down right next to him. "'Sup. What are we playing?"

"Go fish," Paul says, looking like he's concentrating but it's freaking go fish, it's not like high stakes poker. Paul's such an ass.

"Hey, have you seen Jesse anywhere?" Not that he's worried or whatever, but they were supposed to hang out together and Jesse totally bailed, the loser.

"Uh, yeah, he's porking some chick out in the parking lot, dude."

Badger knows it is completely stupid but his stomach drops a mile. "What? No."

"Yeah, the car was like rocking and everything, shit," Petey laughs. "Aw man, go Jesse, right?"

"Sure, yeah," Badger says. It's not like they were boyfriends or anything. His stomach starts to hurt, creeping up his chest. It's not like he gives a crap, anyways. "Can't we play something else? Like, I dunno, blackjack or something? This shit's lame."

"Fuck you," Paul says.

"Or we can try some of this shit," Petey practically crows, pulling out a little baggy like he's been waiting all night to reveal it. Badger can't even tell what it is for a minute, it looks like those stupid tiny crystals you can buy in like every tourist trap, or maybe rock candy, he isn't sure. He doesn't know what to do so he looks around to gauge everyone else's reactions. Paul finally sets down his cards, reaching out to grab it, but Petey pulls it back.

"Where the fuck did you get that?" Paul asks, letting his hand drop.

"Emilio. Dude like owes me big, so he gave me this," Petey says, proud as anything. "He made it himself, yo."

Badger finally gives in and asks, "What is it?"

"It's crystal, dude," Paul says, the know-it-all.

"So, I figure I'll share it with my bros," Petey says, laying out the crystal meth and a little glass pipe. Badger feels a little uneasy – this isn't just weed, this is meth, it's supposed to fuck you up – but mostly he just wants to try it, wants something to take the edge off this trippy pissed-off feeling. He doesn't even know what it'll do to him.

Petey sets it up for him, shows him how to take it, and it's like fireworks, man, it's like he's pure fucking electricity, it shoots around his skull and down his spine and makes him feel like he's been asleep his whole life, is just now waking up. This is better than beer, or weed, or bummed cigarettes. And, despite himself, he wants Jesse to try this too, wants him to feel like this.

This shit will change their lives, he's sure of it.