A/N: Back by request, !super sorry! for the repost but I did decide to do some editing which forced me to reread this for the first time in like two years. Also I noticed the story was still getting follows so I thought I should finally officially close it since even thought I meant to I honestly don't think I'm going anywhere else with this? :u Also sorry for the errors regarding weather in NM, I tried to look it up but I got lazy. :c Anyway y'all are beautiful and I love you xoxo
M rating for language and sexual content and some other stuff like substance abuse
Christmas in Albuquerque
Snow in the ABQ was typically an event of no account. Even in the coldest season the temperature seldom sank below 50ºF during the day and any bit of loose powder that dared to fall on northern New Mexican sidewalks rarely lasted past five a.m. People milling around in those ungodly hours of morning might glimpse a few proud inches of snow sitting smugly before the sun rose to obliterate it, but to anybody waking at a normal time, the roads would appear as they always did, as if frost had never touched them at all.
Christmas evening this year was an exception. In a complete aberration, the city had been hit by a flurry of sorts, and as always when more than three or four inches of snow threatened to drop, people flipped out. Stores that managed to stay open on the holiday ended up closing early, people skipped work, the kids probably would have gotten a snow day if the "storm" hadn't come so late. There were still those courageously drudging forward through the weather, determined to make it to the homes of loved ones so they might spend the holiday together, but mostly the world beyond the cozy suburban homes was quiet.
In the midst of this, sitting dismal and unaffected and barely aware of the snow outside the window, was a young man named Jesse. He was sacked out on his living room futon, snacking lackadaisically from a bag of potato chips. One might think he would also be staring at a television, but there was none. It always took him a long time to accumulate furniture; he had only finally bothered to get a table set for the dining room last month, and he almost never used it anyway, always opting to eat on the futon, which doubled as his bed and chair. It was the only other piece of furniture in the room besides his coffee table, which he now propped his feet up on. His cellphone sat silently beside one of his white sneakers, untouched. For the past nine or so hours he had sat, waiting for it to ring. He hadn't checked his watch all day but he supposed it must have been about seven in the evening. Plenty early, everybody would be just finishing their Christmas dinners, and moving on to gathering around in the living room, possibly exchanging gifts if they hadn't already done so. He imagined his parents and his brother doing this very thing, and wondered if maybe they were thinking about him.
An hour later when the phone still didn't ring he picked it up and dialled, and somehow he wasn't surprised when the only voices that greeted him were recorded and the politeness in them was reserved for more welcome callers.
Maybe they went to someone else's house for Christmas.
He thought it only to console himself and he knew right away it wasn't true. His family never visited relatives, not since Jenny died. They weren't close to any others and the rest of the extended Pinkmans lived on the other side of the planet anyway.
Jesse sat his cell back down and leaned into the cushions, filled with a powerful craving for a beer. He'd bought multiple cases at the start of the week, as if expecting this evening, knowing how it would unfold, and how he would feel as it wound down and he was still alone in his empty house.
So he got up and dragged himself into the kitchen, meaning only to grab himself a bottle to take back with him to the futon, instead hefting the entire case out of the fridge and lugging it back to the living room.
And after the first five or six everything started to blur.
A bird is cawing somewhere nearby when Jesse leans against the back of the high school, waiting for his friends. He only remembers the sound so clearly because of how annoying it was, like a broken vacuum cleaner firing up, then dying down, then firing up again. He was getting ready to go out and hunt the stupid thing when his buddies finally joined him.
"Jesus, what took you so long?" he grouses. He starts to pull the joint out of his pocket - it's his turn to bring the dope - but one of the guys stops him.
He can still remember the sound that bird made, but not the names of the kids he used to hang out with nearly every day at J.P. Wynne.
"Wait," one of them says, a big shit-eating grin playing across his face. "We got something better." With the way his eyes are flaming Jesse thinks he must have already smoked whatever it was.
Jesse's interest is kinda piqued. "What is it?"
They show him a little plastic baggie with some clear, salty-looking chunks at the bottom of it and Jesse, although not familiar with the substance, knows right away what it is, and he puts the brakes on right then and there. "No way!" he shouts, and one of the guys motions for him to keep it down, which he does, lowering his voice but not abandoning his disapproval. "Fucking meth? Why would I... What are you guys thinking?"
Now they're looking at him like he's just revealed himself to have secretly been a woman this entire time and he literally shrinks away from them a little bit, embarrassed. "What's your deal, Pinkman? You blaze up with us all the time."
"Yeah, weed, not crystal. Do you know what my parents would do if they caught me smoking that shit?"
The moment the words leave his mouth he knows he's made a colossal misstep in his speaking and he desperately tries to retract the idiotic statement but it's way too late. They're laughing so hard tears are squirting out of their eyes, tumbling over each other as they sink to the ground, overcome by Jesse's hilarity. He feels his face heat up with anger and humiliation and he snatches the baggie away from them without thinking about it, at which point their eyes turn up at him with renewed fascination, although the laughter doesn't stop right away.
"Shut up, you dicks, and gimme a pipe."
It's just a drug. If he doesn't like it, he won't use it anymore. If he does, well, maybe he'll smoke it occasionally depending on how expensive it is, and how easy it is to keep it under his parents' noses. He'll just try it now.
Anything to get these morons to stop laughing.
He's handed a pipe and he packs some of the stuff into the bowl; judging by the dumb looks on his friends' faces he must have put in either way too much or way too little. When he produces his lighter from his pocket and fires it up, he thinks it must have been the first one.
It feels like a cold wind just went through his bones.
Then his body is ablaze and his lips start tingling then go numb. He uses the wall behind him to keep himself upright as his nerves start tangling up and the blood runs out of his legs and he slowly slides down to a sitting position and it feels like a hundred tiny little needles are stabbing into him. The pipe and the bag slip easily from his fingers and he can hear someone else lighting it up.
"Where did you get this?"
"Brandon was selling it."
"The one who dropped out?"
Jesse's pulse is slamming like a shotgun and he badly wants to move but it feels like the instant he does he'll explode. He presses himself up against the wall and keeps himself completely still when the last thing in the world he feels like doing is just sitting there. His nails bite into his palms and he lets out a long, cold breath while his heart squirms in his chest. Suddenly everyone around him is running, scuttling, scattering like cockroaches. That's exactly what he'd like to do. Scurry away and hide under a rock.
Then he hears his name called. Footsteps come closer and they shake the earth around him. He hears snakes. He can feel them, too. He almost screams when he thinks they've touched him but when he looks all he sees is fingers. Square fingers where the skin sags at the joints and they're touching him, slapping his face gently and for a second he thinks he's staring into windows and that scares much of his trippy pleasure away but given another moment to look he discovers he's staring at the reflective surfaces of a pair of glasses.
The rest of the pleasure goes with that. He can hear another fucked up noise and he thinks that damned annoying bird came back but when he's hauled to his feet and his respiration momentarily stops working, he realizes he had been listening to his own breathing. It was only a matter of time before one of the teachers caught them, although he feels tentative relief knowing they won't know exactly what he smoked. He's also confused as to why this teacher sounds like he's more worried about Jesse's health than pissed off that he was obviously doing drugs behind the school. Still, they will call his parents. He'll have to deal with that. God, all the trouble he'll be in, all the shit he'll have to deal with, just for that one stupid bowl.
He's not even sure if he liked it or not. ...
Jesse threw his arm out, aiming for the coffee table to set one of his many empty bottles down. The bottom of it clacked against the table surface noisily but threatened to tip over the instant Jesse tried to let go of it, irritating him so irrationally that instead of just balancing the stupid bottle he heaved his arm back and launched it across the room. It shattered dramatically against the wall, splashing the little bit of booze left in it onto the wallpaper.
Jenny had loved that wallpaper.
Misery immediately dropped in the pit of Jesse's stomach, causing him to groan a little as if he were actually physically pained by it, and he rolled on his side, meaning to turn his back to the rest of his alcohol and stop this stupid semi-bender before he caused permanent brain damage to himself or something. So quickly after he had turned away, though, he felt the thirst again and returned to it, snapping the lid off of yet another bottle on the edge of his table. Down, down, down, then another. Drink up, it's the holidays, live a little, celebrate.
His entire face was flushed and for some reason his eyes were burning but he still wasn't stopping and he realized that maybe he was trying to do permanent damage to himself. Maybe enough just to black out so that he could live through this lame night without going insane, maybe enough so that he would get the hugest alcohol buzz ever so he wouldn't need anything stronger, or maybe enough to pop a few veins in his brain and stop his heart so he'd never have to wake up again.
If he did drink himself into oblivion, how long would it be before anyone noticed? His parents were sure contenders to be the last ones to hear about it. Maybe they would be grief stricken or maybe they'd regret that they hadn't tried harder with him or maybe they would only come to his funeral so they could say 'I told you so' to his open casket. Pete and Badger didn't really come over on their own and they wouldn't be hit with any deep worry if Jesse didn't answer their infrequent calls. He could be rotting in his living room for months, realistically, and he probably wouldn't even know the first person to realize what had happened to him. It'd just be some neighbor or some pedestrian who noticed a bad smell near his house.
God, why are you doing this to yourself?
Because he deserved it. If nothing else proved it, the fact that he was alone on Christmas did. Who else besides assholes spent fucking Christmas by themselves drinking in their living rooms? And if that wasn't bad enough he was pitying himself at the same time. Feeling sorry for the sack of shit he had allowed himself to become instead of making any real effort to do anything about it. His small grasps at change had all been snuffed out pretty effectively and he had quit so easily.
He tried for another sip but either his lips trembled or his hand did. Either way he botched the shot somehow and dumped beer down his shirt front and almost like it had sunk into his pores and poisoned him that way everything instantly got a little fuzzier.
Five in the morning and Jesse's awake. He's not surprised, he rarely ever gets through entire nights without being almost zapped out of sleep by something he never sees, with his eyes or in his head, some thought or some memory that comes back to him over and over, particularly during the night, interrupting whatever dreams he may have and forcing him awake.
He runs his hand along the floor in the darkness, looking for his jeans, hoping to fish a cigarette out of the pocket, not entirely certain there'll be one there since he goes through cigarettes a lot faster these days. His fingertips brush fabric; it's only his shirt. He gives up and rolls back into the middle of the mattress, bumping against another body, a warm, smooth female body, and what immediately goes through his head - Jane - makes him feel withered, makes sleep seem impossible, because even in this incomplete consciousness he realizes that Jane's not here now, never will be again. He involuntarily scoots forward again, away from the person in the bed. He doesn't want to be close to them. The other thought that comes to him is also automatic, pops into his head before he knows it, but it plays as a force in keeping him from others just the same.
'I don't want you', is what he thinks, is what he always thinks, less a thought and more an accusation, unfair and absurd. 'You're not Jane and I don't want you.'
In the light of day he can feel kind of comfortable again, he can believe he's moved on somehow, he can spend time with other people and get back to trying to accept Jane's permanent absence. But in the dead of night when he lies awake in the darkness, his mind still partially asleep, he doesn't want anyone but her, doesn't want to keep going if he can't have her again. At those moments he thinks he would rather die alone than attempt to love anyone that way again, because even if he could it would be wrong somehow, like a betrayal. In those late nights and very early mornings when he's so far into his own shit he can't even remember anyone else's name, not even the woman in bed with him, he tortures himself by wondering how he would do it differently if he could. Would he be capable of doing the right thing, if someone gave him a time machine and told him he could go back, he could go back and never rent that room, would he be able to do it, to give up having known her? He hates himself for not knowing the answer, for clinging so selfishly to the sweet memories of her, not trusting himself to really be able to give them up if he had the chance to go back and erase their encounter from history. It would be better for everyone, especially her, and her dad (oh god her dad), Jesse supposes it would even be better for himself in a way because it would mean no more sleepless nights spent thinking he should have died instead. But even knowing this, he's still not sure he could do it even if he had the opportunity, which he never will.
He slides a hand up his bare arm, pressing his fingertips in until he can feel his veins bleating away under his skin. His blood is clean but his mind is far from it. He's disgusted by how often his thoughts are dominated by the memories of the drugs, and the first time a needle ever poked into him; he had literally felt like he was flying. Floating, at least, except he knew he wasn't going anywhere, and he thought of how fucking amazing sex would have been right then, but he couldn't even move so all he could revel in was a sickness so severe that it was almost sweet. Every night after the first one he could taste vomit in the corners of his mouth but none of it ever made it out.
He only knows this because he's alive right now.
Bitterly he wonders why he only learns after he's already made the mistake. Why couldn't he have had this strength months ago? Why did it take until waking up next to the dead body of the only person who ever loved him for who he was? He could destroy himself within minutes obsessing over these questions, and the maddening lack of answers.
Then the sun starts to come up, and some sense of normalcy returns. He makes his eyes close and often hands find him in the half darkness, assuming that he only turned from them in his sleep, his sleep which was natural and undisturbed, assuming that he'll feel better if he's touched and rubbed against and held.
But he won't. He knows whose hands they are and he knows the only reason he's even in this bed right now is not because he really cares about this woman he has preyed upon but because he's making a pitiful grasp for some semblance of pleasure to balance out the nothingness. A false pleasure that only last moments, one he doesn't miss after it's over, one that does nothing to help him through the night.
'I'm sorry,' he thinks, not sure who he's directing the thought at, Jane or Andrea or no one at all. ...
A loud crash briefly sent a small spark of awareness through Jesse's head, although it was such a small one that he didn't even realize the noise had been caused by his own body toppling off over the side of the futon and crashing into the table, which didn't turn over but was jostled just enough to send the bottles over the side and scatter glass across his floor. The twinkling smashing noises made Jesse lift his head up and he almost grieved the loss of the rest of his beer but he quickly saw the bottles that still had liquid in them hadn't broken.
Was this irony?
He dropped his head, not caring when it thumped against the ground even though he had already bumped it against the table hard enough to make it bleed. His damned cranium felt too heavy to move so he reached blindly for another drink without turning it, growling under his breath when his fingertips only brushed shards, and his hand roamed the floor more angrily so that when it came into contact with those sharp glass slivers they stuck in. He didn't even notice. His arm slowed, stopped, returned to his side. He cracked his eyes open and was confused when he saw the ceiling. How had he gotten onto the ground? He pulled his knees up, propped an elbow under himself, slapped one hand onto the floor and froze when something drove into his palm. He jolted into a sitting position and gazed, mystified, at the destroyed flesh of his hand, bright red blood running through his fingers, across his wrist, down his arm into the short sleeve of his t-shirt. He was sure he had been wearing a sweater before but he saw no sign of one when he stood himself up against the wall. Maybe it was because the room was spinning so fast he couldn't even make out the path in front of him.
He took an uncertain step in an uncertain direction and his knee twisted defiantly away from him, sending him crumpling to the floor again. He clumsily put his hands out and a million more lacerations appeared on them when they came into focus in front of his face. He dragged his palms across the ground toward himself, feeling small chunks of glass grind in and out of his skin as blood got smeared across the dark wood floors.
Jenny had loved those floors too.
Everything about the house reminded him of his aunt and for the first time in almost a year he seriously, honestly yearned for her. Why had he bought this house, forced his way back into a place that only brought him bad feelings and memories? Why had Jenny gotten cancer? Why did anyone get cancer? Jesse shut his eyes and tried to get up again and when he heard glass crunch under his shoes he figured he made it. He staggered aimlessly, not sure if he was headed to the bathroom to throw up or if he was headed to the closet to hang himself.
Bright white light rented his vision and he figured it was the former. Or else he had just failed to find the closet. He went to the sink first. He meant to wash some of the blood off his hands, but he only succeeded in splattering it on the clean white porcelain before he dropped near the toilet. He inched closer and reached his arms out to take a hold of the bowl to steady himself but stopped when he thought about all the blood he would get on it if he did that. So he contented himself by basically smearing his body across the ground in the space between the toilet and the bathtub, one elbow thrown over the tub's edge, and for how conscious he was of the toilet, he didn't mind it at all when blood dribbled into the tub.
Was he upstairs? Or the hallway? Did the hallway even have a bathroom?
He thought he should lift his head to the level of the toilet, at least, but he didn't have the strength to hold it there and he didn't want his face anywhere asses had been. Asses and acid. He felt awful but he didn't think he would puke any time soon, even if he tried.
You can't even drink right, Pinkman.
Jesse's heart took off and he actually craned his neck to look around, certain that the words had been spoken to him, logic failing him because the voice was so clear. He was genuinely surprised when he found that the room was empty.
High afternoon sunlight slants through the hospital windows and onto the the bed where Jesse is doing some languishing by himself, which isn't anything new for him these days. Periodically nurses show up and try to get him to take the pain meds and a few of them even suggest that he's only refusing because he wants to look tough or macho or something and he suggests that they go fuck themselves. It's not normal for him to just curse people out but he can't help it, he's in a tremendously horrible mood which he has no way of relieving himself from, and then there's the physical pain stacked on top of it and he can't do anything about that either, because if he takes the pain meds now, if he remembers how a drug can miraculously make everything better... well. Jesse's just glad that Saul's gone. The silence of the room is actually welcome after time spent in that guy's presence. Or Mr. White either. Jesse thinks he's pretty much set to pull away from that son of a bitch.
And then like a disease he shows up again.
Jesse figured that he probably wouldn't even see him again after the first time he came to the hospital and Jesse assured him that his brother in law was inked on his shit list. Separation anxiety had stopped being an issue for him ever since Mr. White had kicked him to the curb right in front of Saul. They no longer needed each other. Hell, they didn't even want each other. Jesse had made some pathetic attempt at reconnection only to be mercilessly shot down over something he didn't even think was a big deal, something, in fact, that he thought would have made his teacher proud. He thought the man would be happy to see that Jesse had actually learned something from him for once. But no. That's not the way it happened at all.
"Something's come up, and I think it's a good opportunity..."
He doesn't even get a 'Hi'. He knows right away something's up and it stirs his fury, which had settled at the bottom of his stomach, back into motion. He hates being lied to. He hates being used. He hates it more than he ever has or ever will let on, and it's only recently that's he's even realized just how often both of these things happen to him. It could be just the vicious, constant pain in Jesse's head that's making his anger rise and his blood boil, or it could be the sight of that lying, traitorous face, spewing more cheap bullshit. Jesse is seething and he's able to resist Mr. White's words this time, to reject him the way he has been rejected, but the man doesn't leave him alone, he doesn't see that Jesse doesn't want to be anywhere near him at this point in time and he presses and presses until Jesse snaps.
"You're turning down one and a half million..."
"I am not turning down the money. I'm turning down you."
Shoving money in his face when half of it is broken and unrecognizable. Jesse's control slips and his voices escalates to a shout, he doesn't care who hears him. Mr. White thinks he's pulling one over on him again, well he isn't, Jesse won't let himself be deceived so easily anymore. Before he knows it the point of his tirade fades and he's spun into something more like rambling, even less an accusation, it's just a showcase of the black, unforgiving pain that's been eating Jesse for months. And some stab at making Mr. White feel the way Jesse does.
"Everything I ever cared about is gone. Ruined, turned to shit, dead. Ever since I hooked up with the great 'Heisenberg'."
Mr. White's presence stops being necessary to fuel the words and they keep going and Jesse finally touches upon the only point that actually matters by now:
"You don't give a shit about me."
Jesse should stop there but he can't, he's free falling now, reminding Mr. White that if he wanted him as a partner so bad then why did he turn him away so carelessly, why did he call his meth garbage? It shouldn't bother Jesse as much as it does but before he can stop himself he starts to cry. He'd wanted to stand up and appear strong but as always he's more hurt than angry and he breaks and now Mr. White knows exactly what he can use against him and get away with it.
"Your meth is good, Jesse. As good as mine."
Easy words to speak when you don't mean them, although Jesse suspects there will still be huge damage to Mr. White's ego, and that's why the man leaves so quickly afterward. Jesse fumbles to hold onto some sense of control or will of his own but there's nothing left, there really isn't. All he can do is cry and wait for the hurting to stop, hope for the hurting to stop. All of this has been, on Mr. White's part, a ploy to get Jesse back underfoot. And Jesse will take the bait, he knows exactly what he's doing and he hates himself but this is all there is for him. Like a chick who's too weak or too scared to leave a guy who beats on her, Jesse is powerless against Mr. White's manipulations. Regardless of the pain that is no longer eased by lies, Jesse can't hurt him. It's just not in him. And he knows what Mr. White wants him to do and he knows that he'll end up doing it; which depresses him, because he wanted to shed that life of being somebody's tool, but after all the loss and trauma, being manipulated is almost a comfort, like someone else is walking for him and breathing for him. Although Mr. White claims he didn't make the offer to re-establish their partnership to stop Jesse from ruining the brother-in-law Jesse will drop the charges anyway, he knows Mr. White wants to keep relations with the family clean, so he'll let that asshole off the hook, he'll take another beating for free. And the other thing Mr. White wants, well, he'll get that too, because he can exploit weaknesses, and Jesse is as weak as they come.
The crying goes on for longer than Jesse thought it would but when the tears finally stop he relinquishes the last of his will and picks up his phone, handing over everything Mr. White doesn't deserve and barely had to do anything to obtain. He'd finally let loose on that old prick and told him off the way he should have a long time ago, but still his resolve to be separate from him for the rest of his life is broken with just that little admission. Can he even call it that? No. It was a lie the same way everything else Mr. White said was. Saying that he wanted Jesse as a partner was a lie, saying that he didn't make the offer to save Hank's ass was a lie, and saying that he thought Jesse's meth was as good as his was such bullshit that he's surprised Mr. White didn't puke after he had forced the words out of his mouth. He knows he's been played, and he walked right into it. He knowsthese things but still he folds and comes back for one more. He hangs up the phone and when he closes his eye he never wants it to open again. No matter how badly he's treated or how much he loses in the end he'll do what Mr. White wants to do, because what else is there? Nothing. No one.
It's impossible to sleep when his head is in the state it's in, so all Jesse can do is sink into the pillow and shut himself off, and it's not that hard when the blank, sterile room he's in is empty and nobody is coming to see him. He wants to disconnect himself completely but he'll never entirely lose his ability to feel, no matter how hard he tries.
'I don't want a monkey. I want you.'
Did he intentionally ignore the purpose of the rat threat? Did Jesse even really mean it in the first place? Did Mr. White even believe him? Maybe, maybe not. Jesse has gotten better at certain things but reading people isn't one of them, and as obvious as Mr. White's lies are his intentions are sometimes difficult to see. Jesse has never understood the guy. Maybe that's why it's so easy to bend to his whims.
Or maybe Jesse is just a loser. In any case he certainly doesn't feel better.
Wetness on his face should have roused Jesse but it didn't. Vomit ran down his chin as he slipped away quietly, almost into sleep. Despite being without his sweater he wasn't even a little cold. In fact, his entire body was warm. Uncomfortably so. He kneaded his fingers together, felt the blood which had dried into stickiness squishing between them. That was all he felt, though. Warmth and sticky blood. And that was good, that was exactly what he wanted. No more whining about Jane or Jenny or his parents or Mr. White. At that moment their names were insignificant, and the thought of them inspired nothing in him. His heart pounded in his chest as it always did, his lungs worked at a regular pace, and nothing could hurt him.
The snow must have picked up or else he just finally started to notice it, as it seemed the cold winds outside had invaded the room. Goose bumps traveled up his arms but his horrifically abused body deflected the chill that should have gone along with it. He could hear the wind, though. Loud. Loud and annoying. Making his house moan eerily. It was an old house and it creaked when blasted with the winds, as if it were pissed off that anything would try to move it from the place in which it had always stood. The house, Jesse thought dizzily, was the only thing that didn't change. It looked different on the inside ever since his parents stupidly went around and 'renovated' everything but it was still the same place, the only symbol of longevity in Jesse's life. Everything else had collapsed around him. The house just kept on standing.
When it seemed he had spent his entire existence on the floor of the bathroom between the tub and the crapper he wondered what time it was. He also made a mental note to always buy that kind of beer from now on. It had been awhile since he'd had a good strong one like that, one that messed him up within the first thirty minutes. Or maybe it had just been so long since he got drunk that an ordinary beer was hitting him like a train. Actually, the last time he had gotten truly plastered was when he took Pete and Combo to the All Fours Cabaret. What a night that had been. With nearly seven grand of someone else's money in his pocket he thought he'd treat himself to some fun after an intensely shitty past couple of days. He hadn't meant to spend all the cash, though. He just thought he'd spend a little and then really haggle his guy down on the price of the RV. So to the strip club he went, for what turned out to be the last good time he had since Mr. White spotted him escaping from the window of some floozy's house.
Until Jane. It wasn't like his life to suddenly feel awesome, so looking back on it he should have been ready for something to screw up, but he just didn't want to believe that anything would. And definitely not in the way it did.
Jesse cringed. Throwing up had cleared his head way, way too much. So much that he actually realized he had thrown up. He shouldn't have been aware of that. He shouldn't have thought about Jane, or anybody else. Shouldn't have thought about how she had been taken from him so quickly that he hadn't even gotten a chance to spend a birthday with her, let alone a Christmas. He could feel his heart starting to twist again so he wrenched away from the ground and when he got an eyeful of himself in the mirror on his way out he felt his skin crawl. Yellow puke on his chin and blood dried to nothing on the side of his head, and his nose, sloping and sticking out in a way that added a babyish shape to his face that he could have done without. He thought of his tattered lips and fractured bones and his skin, stretched tight and turned purple over the breaks and swelling grotesquely, and how it had seemed that half-mutated look suited him so much better. And just when he thought he couldn't hate himself any more.
He stumbled out the door and toppled through the house, messily smudging the vomit stuck to his lips onto his sleeve, mostly onto his arm, staggering around until he started to recognize parts of the building, pass those little reminders that meant he was getting closer to the living room, closer to tonight's cure-all. It was unfortunate that it took dozens of bottles of booze to accomplish what just one needle would have done for him.
A man who could win an award for his timing; just as that terrible thought about the needles came to Jesse he stopped dead, finally feeling the cold prickle his skin.
-which is what I'm soaking the sponges in so yes good very good and what do we use to conduct this beautiful current hm copper it's copper
oh you were thinking well now that we've identified the problem you and thinking that's the problem
how many bullets does that gun even take how can you suggest we kill a man when you can't even open the gun it's not that easy is it
i need him i need him very very badly he's my partner if he doesn't go i don't go
is this like a genetic thing with you is it congenital did your mother drop you on your head when you were a baby yes i see your point your imbecility being what it is I should have known to say jesse don't leave the keys in the ignition the entire two days
partners in what what exactly do you do here i've been meaning to ask because i'm the producer right i cook but from what i can tell you are just a drug addict you are a pathetic junkie too stupid to understand and follow simple rudimentary instructions
you junkie imbecile what are you doing calling this number
i will break this i will break it damn druggie idiot is this what you've been doing the whole time i've been trying to reach you
damn junkie this is going down the toilet watch it go it's worth nothing when you smoke it all get off the toilet get off the toilet
i guess you'll just have to depend on the kindness of strangers to get high that and your little junkie girlfriend
in world war two the germans had an artillery piece the biggest in the world called the gustaf gun and it weighed a thousand tons and the gustaf was capable of firing a seven tonne shell and hitting a target accurately twenty three miles away i mean you could drop bombs on it every day for a month without ever disabling it but drop a commando one man with just a bag of this and he could melt through four inches of solid steel and destroy that gun forever
nice job wearing the pants you're not seeing straight jesse you are making a mistake
calm down take a deep breath do it listen to me are you listening calm down everything is going to be okay i promise
-jesse jesse jesse wake up
There is pain in his arm and in his entire body. He hears his name and can't respond to it. He can't move anything. He doesn't even want to.
jesse look at me son
He groans. He's been hearing this voice for what seems like forever. He's lost everything. His friends are dead. His money is dead. Mr. White has given up on him, hates him. Right now he's cozy at home with his family and his cash. He has everything. Jesse has nothing. There is artificial happiness in his veins and even it can't make anything better. All it does is immobilize him so that when he hears Mr. White's voice he can't tell if it's still inside his head or out.
"Stuff's not free. Oh god." He still thinks he hears Mr. White, but now there are hands on him, and Mr. White doesn't touch him unless it's to hit him. He thinks it's one of these freaks trying to rob him, and he tries to get away, but remembers he has nothing for them to take.
jesse it's me "It's Walt." This he finally hears as something not in his head. The hands are Mr. White's. Why is he here? Jesse just hopes he's not here to yell. He understands that he's hated. All he wants is to be left alone to dwell on that.
"Oh. Yeah." Still barely registering. Wondering why he's here, afraid to know why he's here, embarrassed to know that he's here. Jesse drowns himself in shame. Now Mr. White gets to see him in this place, to see him with nothing. To see that he is nothing.
"Jesse, we're going to get out of here. Stand up. Let's go."
He doesn't know where Mr. White wants to take him but he wants to go, except his guilt holds him back. He's lifted, and he resists. "No, no, no, no, no. I'm good, I'm good, I'm good. I'm good right here." Keeping up appearances. Jesse is supposed to be able to just keep rolling. He bounces back. He's fine. For Mr. White's sake, he'll pretend he's fine.
Hands on his face. The skin is dry and lined with deep crevices, but it's warm and it's the first thing that makes him feel like he's alive instead of dead. Some of the pain eases at the touch but he holds onto the rest of it because just the fact that Mr. White is here is confusing the shit out of him and hurting him too. Everything is fucking backwards. He has tried to be good and it got him nothing. Now that he's worthless here's the only person whose approval was actually worth something to him coming from the shadows and finding him in this ugly place he had meant for himself to rot in. Mr. White should be gone. Jesse has betrayed him.
"You are not good here Jesse. You are not good at all." Jesse forces his eyes open and confirms that it isn't a trick. He sees Mr. White and he doesn't look quite out of place enough with this crackhouse backdrop. "Come on, you're going to stand up, and we're gonna go." He can't stand. He can't move. He's stuck. "Put your arms around me. That's right. We're going to take you somewhere nice and safe." Is there anywhere nice he can go? Or will all the doors shut in his face? He's lifted again but this time he doesn't bother fighting it. His arms find their way around Mr. White, and it's weird, but it feels okay, it feels nice and safe like Mr. White wanted.
Jesse links his hands behind the man's back and comes undone. The drugs in his system have not helped. Thinking of the money has not helped. All the hurting done by himself has not helped. There was nobody, and now there is somebody. Suddenly, crazily, Mr. White has come back. He's not home with his family. He's here in a drug den, coming to Jesse's rescue, as the only person left on the planet who gives a fuck. Jesse doesn't deserve a person who gives a fuck. He already accepted the fact that he lost both of his partners. He's only managed to ruin everything and hurt everyone. He should be alone now until he dies. But he's not.
So he cries. His arms around Mr. White, he can't help himself and he comes apart the way everything else has. He holds tightly in case Mr. White tries to leave him, and he gives up and he cries like a child. He expects any second that he'll be shoved away, cast off again, and while he knows he deserves that, he still doesn't want it to happen. When he feels Mr. White's arms move, he thinks that he's going to push him away, he's going to leave, he's going to disappear forever.
But he doesn't. The arms enfold him. Mr. White's hands are on his back and in his hair, it's the only time they've ever been this close without attacking each other, so Jesse drops his guard completely and buries himself in the front of Mr. White's shirt, wishing he could disappear into it and not have to come back out. There's more warmth in this chest than Jesse knows what to do with and he's so goddamn mad at himself for letting himself have this comfort. Just to make it even, Jesse thinks, Mr. White should know the truth.
So Jesse tells him. He deserves to know. "I killed her," he says through his tears. "I killed her, it was me. I got her back on the meth."
Now Mr. White does push him back but it isn't with anger, it's only to look at him, and mercifully he doesn't let go altogether. "Jesse, look at me. You didn't kill anybody."
No, Jesse never pulled the trigger on anybody or stabbed anybody or strangled anybody. But he has killed. He's killed with his laziness and his lack of skills, his lack of interest in getting a job that doesn't involve drug dealing. He's killed with his weakness and his addiction and his pointless rebellion against parents who no longer even care. He's killed because even if he never laid a finger on anybody he's been pushing the buttons that set off the bombs. He's killed just with the fact that if he had never existed certain people would still be alive right now.
But he doesn't argue these points. His mind doesn't work that way. There's too much strangeness in having Mr. White hold him and be nice to him and act like Jesse isn't a failure, like he's not a monster, for Jesse to pull something that might make sense out of the situation. "I loved her," he whispers, just like it'll make up for the fact that she's dead because of him. There's nothing he can do to make up for that. He deserves to be dead, too. "I loved her more than anything."
And it's true. He doesn't think he even got the chance to tell her that and he wonders muzzily if anything would be different if he had. Mr. White pulls Jesse close again and Jesse can hear himself saying 'no' over and over, and he wonders what exactly he is protesting. The loss of her, of himself, the compassion he doesn't deserve but for some reason is getting. He wraps his hand up in the fabric of the man's shirt and he's not sure when he ever let go of it.
Later he's fairly certain the entire thing had been a hallucination, especially when he comes around in the backseat of an unfamiliar car and paws at the outline of a bald head, only to have his heart nearly blow up in unwelcome surprise when a stranger's face stares back at him. But no, this stoic visage isn't entirely new to him. It's the same guy who took his drugs and his money. Paid to clean up Jesse's room and now paid to take him to rehab. If Jesse could mistake him for Mr. White on a comedown he could easily do it while he was still soaring. Of course this isn't something he's happy about, because now that doubt has made its way into his mind he feels like he cheated himself out of something. And he can't even ask Mr. White about it because if it had happened the guy wouldn't want to talk about it and if it hadn't happened he'd think Jesse was a loser for believing for one second that it had.
So he left himself in an uncertain space between knowing and hoping, never entirely sure where Mr. White had been, and if he truly cared about him at all.
There were three things that used to undo Jesse's whole sense of reality. Sex, heroin, and time in the desert. All of these temporarily placed him in a void where it seemed any second the very ground he stood on could be pulled out from under him. For awhile he would forget who he was and nothing seemed real outside of the moment, like no other world existed beyond the sands or the needles or heat of the body. Since he'd given up the last two and the first one now only served to fill him with a sour longing he figured his feeble understanding of what was possible and what wasn't would be left alone.
And then he emerged from his hallway to see Walt in his living room.
With the scattered glass between them and the silence spinning out and the only half-clotted blood splashed along Jesse's hands it felt more like a standoff than anything else.
"Oh my God. What happened?"
Not surprisingly Walter was able to speak first. Jesse could have been a wit and said something like 'a tornado came through' but instead he was quiet as Walt took a cautious step towards him, carefully weaving those big dorky shoes through the shattered evidence of Jesse's little party. Looking at them Jesse was reminded of the way the footwear had earned Walt the nickname of "Mr. Wallabee" to certain high-schoolers. He wondered if any kids still called him that.
"What did you do to yourself?"
And Jesse couldn't even answer that because he wasn't sure what he did to himself and what just happened as he went along. He could still feel the blood and he could still smell the vomit, but all he could see was Walt. "What are you doing here?" he asked, completely ignoring the obvious shock and worry on the deep lines of Walt's face, and the way his eyes widened behind glasses. "Is that a present?"
The lines in Walt's forehead knotted together, then smoothed when he glanced at the beige box under his arm. He waved a hand in a gesture to 'never mind', then set the box down on the floor. There was curvy, ornate writing on the side of it but Jesse couldn't read it from where he was. His vision still wasn't all that great. It would stay focused for longer amounts of time but then slide out of control again. During one of these slides he felt himself get taken by the shoulders and steered around.
"Come on. To the bathroom."
"I just came from there," he protested, twisting around, but Walt pushed against him with his entire body and kept him moving. He came through the bathroom door again and he heard Walt's sharp intake of breath when he saw the blood that had been splattered all over everything. Jesse didn't remember bleeding that much. The sight of it prompted Walt to take one of Jesse's hands to get a better look at the injuries. Jesse decided to finally examine it as well and he had to admit that he understood the alarm that lit up on Walt's face. The flesh of his palm was split apart so deep and so wide it was a wonder Jesse hadn't torn a hole right through it.
Walt guided him over to the sink and gently pulled his hands under the faucet and ran the warm water over them. The blood turned pink and ran off his skin, splashing into the porcelain bowl and fleeing down the drain. "I think you should go to the hospital," Walt said, almost reproachfully.
Stitches couldn't hurt but the hospital was the last place Jesse wanted to be. "No. Screw that." And he expected the man to argue with him but instead he only shook his head and turned off the faucet.
"Do you have any gauze?" Still holding his hand.
"Yeah yeah, here I'll get it..." Jesse mumbled, prying his fingers loose and nearly falling over instead of kneeling down to go through the cabinet under the sink. Briefly he rested his forehead against the wood and shut his eyes; the drop in altitude slapped him with vertigo and his head was still fuzzy despite how most of his buzz died after he had thrown up. He yanked the cabinet door open and shot his hand into the shelves before Walt had a chance to and seized upon several different boxes, pulling them all out at once and spilling out several dozen other things that had built up in that small space. He started to tear into one of the boxes at random until Walt dropped to his knee next to him, shuffling through the mess with one hand and pulling free a box of bandages with no apparent effort. Jesse fell back then; Walt was here now, and it would make more sense to just let him do everything. Except that wasn't what Jesse wanted, not what he was missing when he decided to get ridiculously hammered.
For the moment, though, he didn't trust himself to be able to dress a wound and Walt was more than willing to do it. He held out his hands like a beggar at Walt's request, steadily observing the man's face while he carefully wrapped the gauze around his palms, quietly lamenting that he couldn't cover the smaller cuts that crisscrossed along Jesse's fingers. After he was done Jesse hoped for the little indignities to be over but when he stood Walt was already wetting a cloth in the sink. Jesse tried to simply move around him with a suggestion to go to the living room but Walt wasn't having it. He budged in his way and placed a hand on one side of Jesse's face and used the other to wipe at his lips, dabbing away the last traces of Jesse's good time.
If he could call it that.
When they had finally gotten out of the bathroom - Jesse had spent an agonizingly long time in there already - Jesse's head had cleared unfairly, enough for him to feel ashamed that Walt got to see him in yet another pathetic state of weakness. Why didn't he come before Jesse had downed however many bottles of booze? Why didn't he call and tip Jesse off that maybe everything didn't suck quite as much as he thought it did? Well, he probably hadn't planned on visiting at all. Jesse obviously hadn't been expecting him. The guy had a family, after all, and even though he and his lady were divorced they'd still spend time together for the sake of their kid, and Jesse had no reason to think he'd cut family-time short just to keep some junkie company.
The futon seemed more appealing by the second but Jesse stopped when he noticed Walt veering off in the direction of the kitchen. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to get a broom," Walt answered breezily, like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Jesse growled. "Dude, no," he snapped, forcefully enough that Walt actually listened to him. Listened to him and stopped. "You are not going to sweep my fucking floors now."
"There's glass all over the place, Jesse-"
"Yeah and I'll clean it up, okay? Come on, enough of this shit. You didn't come over here to take care of me. Go sit your ass down and have a beer or something."
Walt hesitated, sparing the glass covered floor one more concerned look before he came back over. He lowered himself onto the futon but didn't take Jesse up on the offer of the beer- maybe because what was left of it was lying in the middle of broken bottle shards and blood.
A change in subject was definitely in order. "So what's in the box?" Jesse asked, more glass grinding under his shoes as he went to retrieve the package.
Jesse had already picked it up but the tiny squiggly writing on the side of it looked blurry to him even up close. He carried it back over to the futon and plopped down next to Walt, popping the top open and when he pulled the bottle out he could have laughed and screamed and cried all at once.
He only went with the laughing, though, snorting in genuine amusement when he saw what Walt had brought him. The writing on the label was bigger and across it he could read: 'Old Heaven Bourbon', also in fancy-ass maroon script.
"Um, yeah," Walt said sheepishly. "I don't think you should have any of that. I didn't know you'd be drunk out of your mind when I brought it."
"Don't they say it's the thought that counts or whatever?" Jesse slurred, hooking one of his feet under the edge of his coffee table and dragging it closer to the futon again, then popping the lid off the bourbon on its edge.
"Whoa, hey, I said-"
"What? You're not gonna let me have any?"
"I don't think it's a good idea."
Jesse looked at the bottle in his grasp. "But I already opened it."
Walt held out a hand. Jesse rolled his eyes and surrendered the bourbon, and his eyebrows shot up when Walt took a huge quaff of it. He grimaced and wiped his lips and then plunked the bottle down on the table, exhaling a long breath with what seemed like great difficulty. He choked a little on the liquor and his eyes went watery. Jesse scooted closer to him.
"Did you have a bad day or something?"
"Not until I came here."
"Oh, well, so sorryfor ruining your night with my shit. I didn't ask you to come over."
Walt looked over quickly. "I don't mean..." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, pushing his glasses up a little on his head. "Jesse... Look at you."
"Believe me, I saw it."
"No, I mean..." Walt paused, and Jesse thought that the man didn't really know what he meant. "It's that... God, you wouldn't be like this right now if I had never-"
"Not like what?" Jesse interrupted, suddenly defensive.
At the confrontational tone Walt's temper, too, spiked. "You know exactly what," he said accusingly. "You're stumbling around here, drunk off your ass with broken glass stuck in your hands, and you act like you don't know what I'm talking about."
Jesse only fumed silently. He couldn't argue with that.
"Look, maybe I should just go-" And then the man started to get up without waiting for an answer and Jesse's anger died right there and he nearly panicked at the idea that Walt would actually leave. Just take off and leave Jesse by himself again, leave him to himself again. So he caught Walt's belt with his fingers and pulled him back down on the futon and the moment he turned his head his way Jesse kissed him. He put his hands on Walt's shoulders and he could feel the man go rigid but he didn't break away and Jesse squeezed his eyes shut, his bones feeling like they had turned to ice. At last he pulled away - the whole thing had only lasted five or ten seconds - and a painfully awkward silence passed.
"It's not like you could drive in that," Jesse murmured, finally referencing the snow which had before been so irrelevant to him. And anyway, since Walt had already left his family, his night was basically open. Only nominally a married man, his condo was all that would be waiting for him. He had about as much to return to as Jesse had to leave. "Come on, you're not going anywhere." He leaned in to kiss him again but that time Walt held him back.
"Jesse, you're drunk," he objected, staring at him in a way that made it clear he was shocked, but also made Jesse think he wasn't all that horrified. Not all that horrified at all.
"Yeah? Says who?" Jesse leaned in again, harder, but stopped just short of it when their lips brushed together and Walt made no inclination to move. "Like you were saying, man, you owe me. So just... shut up." Their mouths met again and Walt's tasted awfully of strong liquor and Jesse supposed that his wasn't much better but it didn't matter, not in the least, because that time neither of them pulled away and Walt's hands moved to Jesse's hips and held them almost possessively.
That's what I thought. No one's putting the screws on you, old man.
While their lips mashed and their teeth clacked together and Jesse tasted the alcohol and felt the fuzz of Walt's chin, Jesse told himself that he wasn't just doing this for the comfort, even as he placed his hand on the back of the man's neck while Walt's was sliding up under his shirt. He assured himself that he didn't need to do something like this just to prove that he wasn't alone, and he became convinced that instead the whole thing was about the thrill of the wrongness, and the pursuit of something new. Something dangerous. Just one more destructive thing to end a night filled with them.
Formerly Jesse had been the aggressor but now Walt pushed him onto his back and came down on top of him, kissing the corner of his mouth, then his jaw, then his neck, running his hands along his chest. Jesse reached out and flicked open the first button on Walt's shirt but was immediately bored by the number of buttons and decided to simply grab the front of the shirt and tear it open. Then he could see a scar, long and thin, across Walt's ribs, the visible mark cancer had left on the man, and Jesse imagined the black death eating away at his lungs; with Jenny, the knowing had been the worst of it, but with Walt, it was the lack of certainty as to if or when that disease would ever come back for him that was driving Jesse insane.
Walt's hands, working too fast for their own good, fumbled around Jesse's belt until he sighed with impatience and undid the damn thing himself. Walt didn't miss a beat, as if the belt had come undone on its own or something, and he slid his thumbs into the waistband of Jesse's jeans and started pulling them away from his body, breathing harshly, and Jesse felt like telling him to shut up again. Walt, as if overwhelmed, let go of the jeans when they were only part-way down and inclined his head closer to Jesse's ear, his lips moving against it ticklishly as he spoke.
"Do you want to-"
"I don't have a bed."
"Umm... I was going to ask if you wanted me to get something... for..."
And when Jesse realized what he was driving at his stomach gave a flip of nervousness but he ignored it. "Yeah, sure, whatever."
Walt heaved himself off the futon and when the weight of his body had gone Jesse felt like maybe putting a stop to the whole thing. He still had a chance to, while Walt was off looking for petroleum jelly or whatever. He pleaded with himself that it was only because he was drunk that he had gotten this far at all but even he knew that he definitely was not still stoned enough to just want to get with an old guy for no reason. So he sat up and swiped the bottle of bourbon off the table and took as big of a drink as he could off of it, shuddering as it scorched his mouth and his throat, and he felt only a little more ready to keep going after it had worked its way down into his stomach, where it pooled like lava and sent sticky sweat pouring from his temples.
And Walt came back quicker, so much quicker, than Jesse really would have liked, and he forgot all about wasting time on words and just like that he was on Jesse again, and Jesse relaxed against him and let himself get swept up and lost in the idea that someone, anyone could still want him. Walt grabbed his head when he kissed him again, now rough and aroused and almost feverish, his fingers threading through short blondish hair and over old blood that stuck to it without noticing or caring. Then his hands were at Jesse's waist, down to his thighs, yanking the jeans away completely. Jesse shivered when his bare legs touched the chilled fabric of the futon but he didn't flinch when Walt's fingers travelled up his exposed flesh and then his underwear was gone, too, and that made him bristle a little bit, perhaps only with the cold. He bit his lip and turned his head away when Walt started undoing his own pants, partly because he didn't know if he could go through with it if he saw the thing and partly because he just didn't want to look at it. He could hear Walt unscrewing the lid to something that was probably Vaseline and then the man was between his legs, on top of him, and he smothered him with another harsh kiss before he pushed in and that was good for when Jesse screamed against his lips because holy sweet jesus fucking christ it was in.
"Shut up," he gasped, and he meant it. He wouldn't be able to stand for Walt to speak just yet and certainly not for him to say Jesse's name and remind him of who he was. He needed to forget that person and just concentrate on not screaming until his lungs ruptured. So he put the pain at the back of his mind and focused on the way his loneliness had disappeared entirely upon Walt's entry, as if it had never even been there. He dug his nails into Walt's shoulders and hands squeezed his hips and then the man was moving over him, in him, slowly at first, then with a little more confidence when it became apparent that Jesse wasn't going to break in half. He still felt like he might, though, clamping his jaw shut every time Walt pushed in and then out of him and gradually that started to get faster, making it difficult to keep up, difficult to keep quiet. He wrapped his arms around Walt's neck and moaned softly when an over-sensitive spot inside of him was brushed, lips touching the space between his cheek and his ear at the same time. He kept his eyes open just to keep from confusing himself with any fantasy that might appear behind closed eyelids and it burned, oh god it burned, but for how much it hurt, the pain of it was nothing compared to what Jesse had been feeling before.
He didn't tell Walt to be quiet that time because by then he wanted to hear it, needed to hear it, the lust and the crushing satisfaction. He rolled his hips and arched his back and felt Walt go deeper in and there was that feeling of lost reality. He welcomed it with nostalgia and relief. He let out a breath he hadn't even known he had been holding and kissed lips whenever they got close enough, the room around him sliding away like water colors and then solidifying again as his body gradually adjusted to the abrupt invasion, enough for him to finally feel something more consistent than occasional throbs of pleasure and pain. "Oh God, Jesse." He was amazed Walt could form coherent words when all he could do was make tiny, almost virginal sounds and tilt his head back, sighing when lips and teeth and tongue seized his throat. With an effort he was able to keep his eyes turned up at Walt, who was panting, sweating and grimacing above him, staring down at him, nothing quite readable on his face except for pleasure. And he didn't know how long they kept on that way, taking short breaths and letting their fingernails pierce the other's skin, except that most of the pain had dwindled by the time Walt had given his last thrust and turned to stone in Jesse's bandaged hands as the climax overtook him and the whole thing ended with a grunt.
Only then did Jesse allow his eyes to fall shut. Walt pulled out of him and stopped bothering to hold himself up and collapsed on top of Jesse, unmindful of just how damn heavy he was. Jesse, upon Walt's withdrawal, felt physically emptier in a way that disturbed and frightened him, and the muscles in his legs gave up and turned into trembling puddles of skin. He could feel Walt's heartbeat, fast and erratic and mirroring Jesse's own, thumping against his chest, a definite reminder that Walt's lungs currently weren't being consumed, and that he was still alive.
"Shut the fuck up, Mr. White."
He never had to tell Walt to shut up so many times in one night and the third time only served to make the man smile at him. Jesse thought about telling him to get off of him already and maybe let him put his pants back on, but he figured Walt would come to this action on his own; until the breathing on his neck evened out and something that sounded suspiciously like snoring started to rumble from Walt's throat.
For fuck's sake.
Although, he wasn't nearly as pissed as he should have been. Because this was better. He could feel that hot, sticky wetness starting to run down his leg and that didn't feel good at all, but it was still better. Immeasurably so. Unlike the other significant moments of closeness with Walt, this one left no room for doubt on whether it had actually occurred... But as before Jesse couldn't be sure about what it even meant. Did something change or improve or did it keep going as it always had? He didn't know which scenario he would prefer.
Once more Jesse was left in that unhappy place between knowing and hoping, only this time there was still a pair of arms around him, and he couldn't really tell if that was a good thing or not anymore.