It was warm and dark in Jesse’s room. He lay curled beneath his layers of blankets, awake but immobile. The door opened and the room a dim streak of light entered.
“Jesse,” Mr. White called softly. “Why are you in the dark?”
Jesse peeked from under the covers as Mr. White opened the curtains, flooding the room in bright sunlight. Jesse retreated back under his blankets.
“No, no,” Walter cooed, slowly peeling the blankets back to reveal Jesse’s face. “Come out. You promised me one day.”
Jesse squinted against the brightness, but slowly unfurled his limbs and climbed out. Soon, Mr. White was bustling abut, putting Jesse’s personal items into a gym bag. Panicked, Jesse reached for the bag and grabbed the handle. Mr. White turned to give him a look, which Jesse shied away from.
At length Mr. White said, “You’re right…it’s only one day. I’ll only pack one day of clothes okay? In case you want to stay the night.”
Jesse doubted he’d want that, but he allowed Mr. White to pack a pair of jeans, boxers and a shirt for him.
“Is there anything else you need?” he asked.
Jesse felt like a child being asked if he wanted to bring his teddy bear, and Jesse might have wanted that…if he had one.
“What about this?” Walter asked, unplugging Jesse’s iPod from the wall. “We’ll be driving and you might be waiting around a bit. We’ll take it in case you get bored.”
Jesse nodded and Walter gently guided him out the door. The lady at the desk smiled at him. Jesse’s group leader came down to the lobby and shook Mr. White’s hand before turning to Jesse.
“Good luck, Jesse. Give it a chance, okay? And no shame if you come back.”
Mr. White gave the group leader a disdainful glare and led Jesse out by the hand.
Seeing the miles f open desert ahead, Jesse already missed his flowery home. The dirt was beautiful, ranging in shades from reddish-brown to sandy tan with interesting rocks and plateaus jutting up to the bright blue sky. It was nice and peaceful if Jesse could ignore the fact that they were speeding past it. He missed the softness of grass and soil beneath him and the bright colors of his tiny corner of the rehab’s garden.
“I wish I could have gotten out of work for you today,” Mr. White said in a falsely casual voice. “I tried to, I really did, but our last batch of the week will be finished today so it shouldn’t take long. Besides, you’ll get to meet my boss today. And Mike, you remember Mike? He’ll be there too. Won’t it be nice to see them?”
Jesse nodded absentmindedly, not really processing what had been said.
“So,” Walter said, awkwardly blundering through the silence. “Is there anywhere in particular that you want to go today? Anyone you want to see?”
Jesse shook his head.
Mr. White didn’t seem too disappointed about that. He probably had the rest of the day planned down to the second.
Gale had made some coffee and was sipping patiently as he waited for Walter to return. In a few 2.5 hours the batch would be complete and Gus would be coming down to check on the product and the well-being of his chemists. The door above opened and there was the comforting clang of footsteps on the metal platform.
“Good morning, Walt-“ Gale started, smile frozen on his face as he realized that Walter was not alone. A small frail fellow was trailing behind him, following so closely that it seemed they might be attached, back-to –chest.
“Oh…hello,” Gale said awkwardly, watching every synchronized step the pair took down the spiral staircase.
“Good morning, Gale,” Walter said with a wider grin than Gale had ever seen on his face. “I know this is short notice, but we have a guest today! This is my…”
Walter paused, searching frantically for a word that encompassed all that Jesse was to him and how much he meant.
“…Jesse,” he said at last, finding that the name alone was somehow sufficient.
Gale’s heart fell to his feet, but he clung to the remaining shambles of his smile and extended his hand.
“Hello, Jesse. I’m Gale.”
The young man, Jesse, stepped back as if Gale had threatened to hit him and inched behind Walter’s back until he vanished completely from sight. Gale stood there frozen, astonished, and a bit creeped out. What was wrong with him?
“It’s okay, Jesse,” Walter coaxed, as if this grown man was a child. “Gale is a very nice person.”
Gale’s heart floated a bit at the compliment, but he was still unsettled by Jesse and Walter’s closeness. Jesse stepped out from Walter’s shadow again, but did not extend his hand. Embarrassed, Gale lowered his own hand.
“Not to be rude…” Gale said softly. “But…why?”
“I’m looking after him today and I couldn’t very well leave him home alone.”
“Well, I suppose you couldn’t,” Gale replied uncertainly, looking at Jesse’s nervous blue eyes. “But here? I mean…”
“Oh don’t worry. I’ve spoken to Gus already. He said it’s fine.”
“Alright…But what will he do? Sit in the break room?”
“Actually, I was thinking he could watch and help with a couple of things.”
“What kinds of things?” Gale asked a little too quickly.
“Oh, check some numbers, help lift trays, break up the product, and clean up with us after.”
“But…I do those things.”
“Yes, but there’s always room for help.”
“Good, come on Jesse, let’s suit you up!” Walt said cheerfully.
“There are only two suits,” Gale interjected.
“He can wear you’re spare. I think you two are close enough in size.”
Before Gale could protest further, Walter gently nudged Jesse away towards the lockers.
Jesse felt oddly at peace jotting down numbers on the clipboard. It felt familiar and safe. The equipment was large and shiny, not as pretty as his plants but nice to look at. Mr. White allowed him to touch a few things, press some important looking buttons, but mostly he just took notes. Still, Jesse had a basic understanding of what was going on. Even with all this new machinery, Mr. White moved with a smoothness, a certainty of an artist knowing just how to achieve the effect he wanted. Cooking was still an art.
The cook was soon over, and Jesse was allowed the honor of breaking the ice with a fuzzy looking hammer. The sheet of crystal was glassy and even. It was a beautiful shade of blue that took Jesse right back to his garden. If only a flower could be so shiny and perfect, but then, Jesse thought, the petals might be sharp and it might not smell so sweet. He brought the hammer down, shattering it.
Mike walked behind Gus into the lab. He was here, as always, to make sure the shipments got out okay. Victor trailed even further behind the boss, mostly to move the bins out back. Down below, Mike saw the usual small yellow suited figures below. He saw two, but if he remembered correctly, there should be three today. Then, he caught a glimpse of orange behind a large metal tank.
“Hello Walter,” Mike called as they marched downstairs.
“Hello Mike, Gus,” Walter said, refusing to acknowledge Victor. “This is…”
He turned to gesture to Jesse, but realized at last that the younger man wasn’t behind him.
“Jesse, come out. There’s someone you need to meet.”
Jesse Pinkman peaked out from behind the machinery. The 25-year-old blond was even smaller and frailer than Mike remembered. His hair had grown longer and spiked forward into the air. His blue eyes were so wide…so innocent.
Walter motioned for Jesse to come, and he did, in quick nervous steps until he stood very close to Walter.
“You remember Mike?”
Jesse locked eyes with Mike briefly, more sad than frightened. Clearly, he associated Mike with the death of his girlfriend, Jane Margolis. Mike found himself unable to look away even after Jesse did.
“And this,” Walter gestured grandly. “Is my employer, Gus Fring.”
Mike watched Jesse dare to raise his eyes for all of two seconds before looking back at his feet. Walter smiled uncomfortably.
“He’s a little shy.”
“That’s quite alright,” Gus said with an easy smile of his own. “How did he do today?”
“He did quite well actually. Took some good notes, helped with some of the last steps. The equipment is all a bit new to him, but he did pretty well considering that.”
Jesse glanced over at Walter with a flicker of appreciation at the praise though it was promptly snuffed out when gunfire erupted above them. Mike immediately pulled out his own gun and turned to find Victor doing the same. Both looked up at the high ceiling.
“W-w-what’s going on?!” Gale stuttered.
“Guard the elevator!” Mike shouted at Victor.
Mike jogged to the hotline on the wall, quickly dialing the next-in –command.
“Trouble at the lab,” Mike told him. “I don’t know how many. Bring at least half to be sure. No they aren’t in the lab yet, but I suspect they’re on the way.”
Sure enough, there was banging on the door above them. The geniuses apparently hadn’t thought to steal a key. Mike hung up and took a position that he could aim at the door from and still have cover. He gave an observatory glance around the room. No one was visible. That was good.
The idiots at the door continued to bang and shoot away at it. That door was several inches thick of reinforced steel. They wouldn’t get through before reinforcements arrived, and the lift Victor was guarding was well-hidden. This continued for a good ten minutes, but soon there were shots and the banging stopped. The hotline rang and Mike left his cover to answer.
“All clear,” Mike called into the lab as he hung up.
Like Mice, the others appeared around the room. Gus and Gale walked out from the break room. Walter appeared from behind the stack of barrels, but walked over to some other metal equipment.
“Come out,” Mike heard Walter whisper.
As he rounded the corner, Mike caught sight of Walter kneeling down by the machinery. Mike couldn’t see Jesse, but he knew he was there.
“Jesse, it’s alright,” Walter soothed. “It’s okay…they’re gone now. Come on out.”
“I want to go home,” Jesse replied in a trembling voice.
“I want to go back! Take me back now!” Jesse pleaded.
Walter sighed and leaned forward, arms outstretched, hugging the scared Kid. Then he let go and walked over to the others, who had all been watching this scene and listening intently.
“I should…get him back,” Walter said, defeated.
“Give us a few minutes,” Mike said. “I need to check out what’s going on up there for myself. Then I’ll call you up.”