Walt looked around the lab, taking in the sight of the massive, stainless steel equipment with a sigh. A new day. He vaguely recalled a quote about a new day being a chance to leave yesterday's troubles behind and start a new beginning.
Whoever said that must have been in a very different business, he realized.
However, he did find it possible to simply move forward. Keep things business as usual. No panic, no second guessing or trying to fix or erase anything. It was what it was. He wished he could teach Jesse to think that way. Instead his partner seemed to incessantly pick yesterday's troubles back up and constantly second guess himself.
It wasn't the first time they had something new to worry about. He tried to convince himself that in the realm of things, this was even a small hiccup compared to some of the things they had been through. How many times had they panicked, and thought it was the end? Thought that they might not make it to morning?
He thought back to Tuco and their fear of being loose ends that could too easily be cut. One of endless examples. They were so naive then, without a clue what would be ahead of them. He remembered the revolver Jesse had purchased in panic, and smirked as he remembered challenging him to figure out how to simply open the barrel of the gun.
While this lab was quite a contrast to the days of their elementary cooks in the RV, the thought of their humble, often reckless, beginning tugged at a part of his conscience in a way he couldn't describe. Nostalgia? Or something else?
The sound of the lab door opening made Walt look up, and he watched his partner walk down the stairs, taking slow, heavy steps.
"You're late," Walt told him. He had been late himself, arriving just ten minutes earlier, but didn't mention that.
Jesse shrugged as he made it to the last step and walked towards him. "Sorry."
Walt noticed a blue and silver can in Jesse's hand and gestured toward it. "What's that?"
"A lot of coffee for people that don't like coffee," Jesse answered. He raised it to his lips and took a long sip.
"Red Bull?" Walt eyed the label. "Since when do you drink that? You do realize that can is just filled with chemical garbage."
"Yeah, but it's awesome with vodka," Jesse answered. He again took another long sip, leaning his head back to finish the drink. He then partially crushed the can in his hand and met Walt's eye with a smirk. "Don't worry, Mr. White. No vodka this morning."
"Why aren't I surprised that your generation sees no issue with mixing a depressant with an energy drink..." Walt eyed the dark circles under Jesse's eyes before the younger man turned away to walk a few feet over to the garbage to toss the crushed can away. "If you're drinking it because you're tired... you should remember a little concept called a caffeine crash."
"Whatever. I drank two of them."
Jesse met his eye briefly, and then shook his head and looked away. "I couldn't sleep." He felt the man's eyes on him and walked away to go suit up. Was it worth it to try to put his intense paranoia into words?
Walt shook his head, but stayed silent for a minute, watching Jesse carefully. "I was just thinking back on Tuco. Random, I know. Incredible to think about some of it in hindsight. But-"
"Who cares," Jesse cut him off abruptly. He turned and gave him a look. "Seriously, Mr. White."
"You don't even know what I was going to say."
"No, but I don't care." Jesse shrugged his shoulders. "That was ages ago. And honestly not something I really want to think about. Not really a warm and fucking fuzzy memory, if you know what I mean."
Walt eyed him carefully. He cleared his throat. "You okay?"
"Yeah." Jesse's voice kept an edge. "But you're the one that always tells me to let stuff in the past stay there. Why bring it up then?"
"Fine," Walt acquiesced. "No talk of Tuco." He paused. "Anyway, now that you're here, let's start. I need to leave a bit early today."
Jesse frowned as he continued suiting up. He knew exactly what that meant. That meant he would be the one stuck by himself cleaning the equipment. "Why?"
"I have an appointment and then I have to pick up the kids."
"You know, if you've gotta lot of stuff to do... I can cook alone."
"No," Walter answered, a little too quickly. He caught Jesse's disconcerted look and shook his head. "Not that you can't, Jesse. But you don't need to."
"Yeah, sure." Jesse wanted to accuse him once again of not trusting him, but kept it to himself. No use in starting an argument. Instead he continued to suit up. "What kind of appointment?"
Walt hesitated. "PET scan." There was a huge segment of his life that he didn't want Jesse involved in. This was part of it. But then again, what was the point in keeping it from him? There was already so much Jesse knew about his family and his health. There wasn't too much sense to keeping much from him at this point. And eventually... Well, time would tell, but eventually Jesse would have to know if his outlook changed.
"Oh. That kind of appointment." Jesse was quiet as he finished getting dressed. "How is..." he struggled to find what he wanted to say. "How's all that going?"
"It's going. Today is more... routine, I guess you'd call it."
"Routine, yeah." Jesse focused on the lab in front of him. He never knew what to say in these conversations. It brought back a lot of memories. He didn't want to ask questions, but at the same time, he was nervous not to know the truth. He realized he should probably be more proactive and ask how everything was going once in a while... But he was always afraid of the answer. He wasn't sure what would happen once the answer changed.
"Just part of the inevitable future ahead of me," Walt responded wryly. Jesse was quiet now, and Walt was reminded why he avoided bringing this topic up. He preferred to avoid the topic even with his own family. Jesse always got sullen when a conversation touched upon his diagnosis or his treatments. He knew it brought back memories of his aunt. "It's routine, Jesse," he assured.
"Yeah, fine. I heard you." Jesse moved away and started towards the equipment. "Let's cook." The words had barely left his mouth when his phone started to ring.
He glanced towards his jacket behind him on the coat rack and seemed to hesitate.
"If it's Mike," Walt began. "Not today."
Jesse rolled his eye at him briefly before heading back to his jacket. He fished out the cell phone from the pocket and glanced at the caller ID. He considered not answering but then gave in and flipped the phone open, bringing it to his ear. "Yo," he began.
Walt watched his partner carefully. It wasn't Mike. Or was it? Did he say "yo" to Mike? Possibly. It was a frequent part of Jesse's vocabulary. Before he could think much about it, he noticed an immediate change in Jesse's posture.
"Wait, what? What's going on?" Jesse said, his voice rising. Suddenly, his expression changed, his eyes widening slightly. "Yo," he said again. "Calm down... Dude... I can't understand a word you're saying. What happened?"
"Jesse," Walt began, now increasingly curious who was on the other side of line.
Jesse waved his hand at him with the implication of 'be quiet'. He was listening intently to the phone now. "Uh-huh... Fuck. When? …. But- look, I get it alright?" He paused. "Where are you? … Okay. Okay. I'll try. I-" He sighed. "Fine. Okay. Bye."
When the call ended, Walt spoke up again. "Who was that?"
"Pete." Jesse looked up, his eyes filled with trepidation. "Something happened to Badger."
Walt glanced up at the cameras, one quick jolt of fear going through him. They really shouldn't talk about Badger here. "Jesse." He said his name forcefully, in warning.
Jesse caught his tone and glanced at the cameras himself. "Fuck them," he said under his breath. Then he just clenched his fists. "Fuck."
"I don't know what happened," Jesse answered stiffly. "Look, Mr. White. I need to go."
"Jesse. Listen. You can't."
"I have to." Jesse looked at him with a frown. "I'm not asking permission."
"You can't," Walt repeated.
"The hell I can't," Jesse snapped.
"Listen to me." Walt approached him. He kept his voice calm but firm. "You can't go."
"Why?" Jesse looked up at him. They were face to face now. And he knew why. He knew exactly why, so he didn't know why he was asking. He didn't know why he was asking Walt to be the voice of reason. He knew damn well. But the voice in his heart was fighting the voice in his head. He swallowed back the lump in his throat.
"Think about it."
"He's my friend," Jesse insisted. He kept his voice low. "Pete says it's bad. They're at the hospital. I need to-"
"Jesse, think about it," Walt repeated. "Think hard. This isn't a negotiation."
Jesse's brow furrowed. He hated Walter for a moment. Why did he get to handle everything in stride? He didn't even blink at the news, but commanded what he thought was the right path.
Jesse knew he was right and it pained him. And he was asking for permission. If he wasn't, he would have already left.
"You said it yourself," Walt continued. "They're watching you."
"Then they know we're friends. They-"
"Jesse, if you-"
"They know!" Jesse persisted, trying not to raise his voice.
"Hold on," Walt interrupted. "Just calm down for a minute." It was ridiculous, a conversation like this in whispers.
"What if it was you in my position," Jesse challenged. "What if it was your son or-"
"I would never be in the position you're in, Jesse," Walt answered, somewhat curtly. "Your position involves a chain of actions that I would never do."
Jesse let the comment, somewhat of a beratement, slide by him. He knew what would happen if he responded. He didn't need to hear that he was a fuck-up again. He didn't need to be reminded of actions having consequences and all that bullshit. "I need to see him." He hated that his voice faltered.
"I know. But not today." Walt shook his head. "You don't even know what happened."
"You don't even care, do you?" Jesse began. "You don't care what happens."
"Lower your voice. This has nothing to do with me, Jesse. It-"
"Which is why you don't give a shit, right, Mr. White?" Jesse's eyes narrowed. "That's exactly what it is. It has nothing to do with you, so you don't care. It's all about the business and money."
Walt met his glare without blinking. "Lower your voice," he repeated, with more authority this time. "And yes, it is about the business. It's always about the business. And we need to cook."
Jesse grew frustrated. "And if I leave?"
"I think you would be very stupid to leave," Walt responded edgily. He watched Jesse's face, seeing the mix of emotions, and with that he walked away and started towards the lab equipment. Time to start the first step in the cook process. He knew Jesse well enough now to read into his body language, his tone, the way he was speaking... He wasn't going to leave. Not now. Not knowing that he was being watched.
As expected, Jesse followed Walt, somewhat begrudgingly, as his mind grew cloudy with dark thoughts. How bad was it? Was Badger okay? Pete always seemed to exaggerate. About everything. Maybe this time too. And was this random? Was it Gus? Maybe it was all coincidence. It wasn't like Badger was a saint. But if it was Gus, was this the real warning? Was Badger ratted out by the guy Saul said was involved? Maybe it was even that guy's crew.
Jesse looked up and met Mr. White's gaze. The man almost looked sympathetic.
"I know he's your friend." Walt softened his tone. "But don't compromise yourself."
"And when we finish today?"
Walt shook his head. "I wouldn't suggest it."
Jesse's let out a breath of exasperation.
"You put yourself in this situation," Walt answered before Jesse could speak. "Don't make it worse."
Jesse couldn't argue. He had put himself in this situation. He didn't need a reminder. He put Badger in this situation. Little actions that caused a snowballing chain of reactions that eventually got someone hurt. Now Badger was hurt. His conscience became this dark sea of emotions. He became he own worst enemy. And everyone hurt. Like Jane. Jane was clean. Jane hadn't faltered. Not until-
Walt's hand was on his arm now and Jesse jerked it away. He glared at him. He wasn't angry at Walt. Was he? He didn't know. But his frustration caused the reaction anyway.
"Can we cook?" Walt insisted.
Jesse suddenly felt incredibly lonely. Was there no one he could express any of this to? He couldn't say it out loud. He would get that patronizing look, the shake of the head, a stiff rebuke. He couldn't explain this feeling, this anxiety, in words anyway.
Jesse eyed the phone in his hands. Skinny Pete's panicked voice, strained with emotion, replayed in his head. Not good, he'd said.
His pulse was fast. He wondered if it was the situation or the Red Bull.
But he didn't have much of a choice.
"Fine," he said. "Let's cook."