After making the plan to rob the tanker car, Mike and Walter take their leave. Jesse is expected to meet them soon to exact the heist. Despite how Mr. White oscillates between fatherly and vicious at the drop of a hat, his actions often make it clear he couldn’t give a rat’s ass what Jesse does in his free time, and he has no problem leaving him in the warehouse with Lydia.
As far as Mr. White cares, Jesse is just a junkie with a double-digit IQ, the type of guy who lights it up any free chance he can get. Well- Jesse thinks, fumbling for a plastic baggie in his pocket- who gives a fuck if he’s right? He’d rather be a dumb junkie than someone who talks about killing people as if it’s nothing at all.
His hands are shaking. The bag slips from his fingers. His palms are hot and slick. He expects to see red when he looks at them- Jane, Gale, Brock, Gus- but it’s just sweat. He wipes them off on his pants.
Lydia is standing next to him, holding the plastic baggie between two fingernails as if it was going to poison her. It takes him a moment to realize that she’s trying to return it to him. Jesse takes it, muttering a “thanks.”
“Are you, um… You’re going to smoke that. Marijuana. Right here.” Lydia crosses her arms. At first he thinks she’s being judgmental, given her whole- you know, everything about her- but he spies her trembling as well. He can’t blame her. No matter how many times it happens in this business, he can never get used to having someone threaten his life.
“Yeah.” He fumbles in his pocket for a lighter. “It’s not like it’s the worst thing that’s happened in this shithole.”
“Right. Well. I wouldn’t want the scent to, um. The scent of marijuana can linger on furniture and other surfaces, which someone could notice, and it could track back to us.” When she realizes he’s looking at her like she’s crazy, she throws up her hands in exasperation. “I already said, I’m not going to apologize for being careful.”
He just nods and begins walking outside. Mike and Mr. White are already gone. The sun has already set, he notes, and nobody’s around for miles. Last thing he needs is to get caught smoking and have the whole damn operation crash down on his head, like Lydia thinks. Jesse hears heels clicking behind him as he lights the blunt.
“Oh my god, how long has it been? I last remember-- it was morning, and…” Lydia’s breathing cuts short. She tries to get some air in. “I can’t be here. I need to be with my daughter. She’s going to think I’m not coming home. I can’t let my daughter think I’m abandoning her--”
“Hey!” Jesse holds out a hand. The sudden movement makes her flinch like she’s expecting to be struck. A pang of guilt hits him; he steps back, holding up both hands as if in surrender. “Hey,” he says again, more quietly. “Can you breathe?”
“I can breathe just fine,” she snaps. “I am-- Okay. Okay. Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, I am probably experiencing a panic attack. I don’t have time for this, my daughter--”
“Listen.” His voice comes out much quieter, but she does quiet down and listen. “Like, so humor me on this. Can you, uh, name five things you can see?”
She makes a noise which seems like a cross between a laugh and a sob. Being walked through therapy by one of the men who kidnapped and almost killed her, he thinks, guilt twisting like a knife. “I can see you. I can see the concrete of the, uh, parking lot. I can see the marijuana that you are currently smoking. I can see the smoke.”
Her eyes follow the billow of smoke into the air, toward the night sky. Jesse does the same. He hadn't been able to see any stars during his brief time in Houston; too much light pollution.
“I can see Orion’s Belt,” she finishes.
How specific, Jesse thinks. He can find the Big Dipper on a good day. Way back when, he would get together with Badger, Skinny Pete, and Combo out in the desert- not too far, just far enough that no cops will pass by and they would get high. Badger would insist he could spot Mars, and Skinny Pete would tell him that’s actually the North Star, and usually the conversation would shift to conspiracy theories about aliens or Star Trek. Jesse almost wants to laugh, thinking how far away those days feel.
“Okay. Real good. Now do four things you can touch.”
“Right. Four things. I can touch my clothing.” She takes a shaky breath. “I can touch my cell phone. I can touch, um, my sunglasses--” She pulls them from a pocket. They’re bent, and there’s no purpose to wearing them now, but she still has them. “I can touch, um, the wall of the warehouse. In which I was just held captive and nearly killed--”
Okay, maybe a little counterproductive. He cuts her off. “Yo, now like, three things you can hear.”
She takes another breath. “Three things I can hear. I can hear-- wildlife, of some sort, such as insects. I can hear the sound of my voice. I can hear you breathing, quite loudly.”
He chuckles. “Two things you can smell.”
Lydia messes up her face. “I can smell that marijuana smoke. It’s quite strong.”
“And… it’s really overpowering, you know, it makes it difficult to complete this exercise. Um.” She sniffs. “It smells of body odor in this parking lot.”
Jesse almost wants to sniff himself. All he can smell is weed. Whatever. “Almost good. One thing you can taste.”
“I can taste, well, I can’t taste anything in particular, although my sense of smell makes it taste as if I am smoking again. God, I can’t believe I did that.” She pinches the bridge of her nose. “I will not be giving you thanks, if you’re expecting it, for walking me through that exercise. I was well aware of it already.”
He shrugs. ‘Thanks’? No, he’s honestly thrilled that she hasn’t tried to attack him or whatever. The fact that she’s not actively berating him too much makes her presence a luxury.
“Learned it in rehab,” he says. “Worked for me.”
“Yes. Um. I need to return to my daughter.” She checks her phone. “Is this-- how far away am I? Where is this? I need to know where I have been taken.”
“I’ll give you a ride.” She doesn’t have another option, really.
“No. No, at least, I do not want you to drive while you’re smoking.”
“Then gimme a minute.”
He holds the smoke in his lungs for a second longer than usual before exhaling. Lydia stares at him with her arms crossed all the while. After a few moments without speaking, he holds out the blunt as if unsure what else to do.
“You-- you really are trying to offer me marijuana again. Do you want my senses dulled? Would it make it easier to take me to a secondary location and chain me to another table if I can’t fight back?”
“No. Like, it’s for anxiety and shit. That’s all, I swear.”
She looks at him as if he has two heads. He supposes he’s no better than Mr. White. One moment, he’s actively involved in holding her hostage. The next, he’s helping her calm down.
The sound of heels snaps him from his thoughts. Lydia has stepped closer. She takes the blunt between two nails again, studying it. She seems like she’s having an internal debate. Finally, she brings it to her lips and inhales.
She immediately spirals into a coughing fit, like last time. “Oh my god. I can’t believe I’m doing this again. What the hell is wrong with me?”
“It helped last time.”
“Yes. It did. I have no desire, though, to become dependent on drugs to deal with my problems. I need to set a good example.”
He thinks about making a quip about how they’re all in the wrong business for that, but he doesn’t. Lydia coughs into her sleeve and passes the blunt back to him. She took kind of a fat hit this time, Jesse thinks.
One last hit and it’s done. He puts it out underneath his shoe. Jesse pulls out the keys to his car and walks over. He holds open the door for her. He used to do that type of thing a lot, for his Aunt. God, that feels even further away than Badger and Skinny P.
Lydia’s lips are pursed. “It’s a little too late to try to be a gentleman.”
“Yeah. Sorry. I dunno.” He rubs his forehead. “You want a ride or not?”
She gets in the car, and he lets her pull the door shut on her own. He starts the car they pull out of the parking lot and onto the open road.
The effects come sooner this time. Lydia leans her head back against the headrest and closes her eyes. Her body threatens to float away, but the seatbelt holds her comfortably in place.
After a few minutes of silence, Jesse reaches over and fumbles with the radio station again. “Hell yeah, bitch,” he whispers to himself, once he finds classical.
Lydia laughs. For some reason, everything seems a little funnier right now. Maybe it’s exhaustion, or maybe it’s just the marijuana, but she can’t help but think of how ridiculous this whole situation is.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Jesse says. “Really. I did everything I could to make ‘em give you another chance. Mike had a guy bring you here, so I hope you aren’t hurt, or--”
“I’m unharmed.” She keeps her eyes shut. “I won’t say that I’m pleased, or that I forgive you, but I’m… grateful, I suppose, that you vouched for me. Still, if I hadn’t gotten lucky…”
Neon signs punctuate the night, gas stations and fast food joints that could make this any podunk town along any highway in America. It’s hard to get a grip on exactly where they are, but Lydia has a feeling that they have a long drive ahead of them.
“Yo, uh, you hungry?” Jesse asks. “Might wanna stop while we can.”
She hates to admit it, but she is. She’s not sure when was the last time she ate. If she’s already indulged in a drug, she supposes getting some greasy fast food again isn’t so bad. “Pull in here to this location. This ‘Arby’s’. It looks less-- less ghetto than the others on this block.”
“Yeah, bitch, curly fries are what’s up.” He slows down and turns into the Arby’s. There’s one car ahead of them in the drive-thru.
Lydia studies the menu board. They seem to be all about meat, especially roast beef. Lydia had it once, served at a soirée that Gus had invited her to. It had been served thick-sliced on a plate, having been slow-cooked to perfection. Here, it looks strange piled onto a greasy sandwich.
“Uh, you need more time?” Jesse asks, as they pull up to order.
She sighs. The last thing she needs is indigestion on this car trip while she’s high. “Just-- a salad, no dressing, and… Add one large order of fries.”
“Water, no ice.”
Jesse places the order. This time, when they pull up to the little window, Jesse pulls out a twenty dollar bill and hands it to the cashier.
“You got me last time,” he says, “so this time I got you.”
She’s not sure what to make of this. “That’s generous of you.”
“Don’t mention it.” He takes the change, then the food. Like before, they pull into a parking space to eat.
“The fries,” Lydia says, immediately, looking into the paper bag full of food. “What are these? I ordered french fries.”
“They are fries. Curly fries, yo.” Jesse holds one up. It dangles like a spring from his fingertips. He lowers it into his mouth as if he were a child playing with his food. “Mm. These are the shit.”
So this is what he meant by ‘curly fries’. Lydia picks one up. It’s very hot, maybe fresh from the fryer. She can just imagine the grease from this thing clogging her arteries.
“I suppose I’ll try it. I do have the… what was the word?”
“The munchies?” He cracks a grin.
How juvenile. She eats the fry, considering it. The exterior has a satisfying crunch, while the inside has that delightful soft potato flavor she had craved. The seasoning blend that this restaurant uses appears to be different than Burger King’s. It’s salty, with the slightest kick of spice. She finds herself reaching for another one immediately.
It’s strange how food tastes different while she’s high. She hasn’t had fast food french fries without being under the influence, admittedly, but she feels so oddly aware of each bite she eats. She can almost forget the extenuating circumstances that have brought her to this point.
Jesse is nodding as he eats his sandwich. “This Mozart is growin’ on me.”
“It’s Bach,” she corrects. The music even sounds a little different while she’s high. “The Brandenberg Concertos.”
“Cool. Uh. It’s good. Real soothing.”
She remembers her salad. How funny of her to worry about the high sugar content in salad dressing when she’s chomping away at greasy french fries-- excuse her, ‘curly fries’. She unwraps a plastic work and begins to eat. At least the lettuce seems to be fresh.
Lydia can’t quite get a read on Jesse. He’s nice. Less threatening than Mike or Walter had been. In some ways, he reminds her of Gus. He’s a bit more… lowbrow than Gus had been, but she doesn’t mind his company too much.
She can’t really hold all this against Jesse. It’s just business; she had put a hit on Mike, after all. Gus had never had anything like this done to her, but he had no reservations about doing what needed to be done. By comparison, Jesse gives her the impression that he’s a bit soft for this line of work. He stands out in comparison to Mike and Walter, at the least.
“So, I understand that Walter was the partner you mentioned,” she comments.
“Mr. White? Yeah, he’s, uh.” He wipes his hands on a paper napkin. “Like a meth-cook genius or whatever.”
“You did say that he… if I recall, ‘scares the shit’ out of you.”
He snorts. “Now you know why. He didn’t always used to be like that, or whatever.” He tosses the napkin into the paper bag that the food had come in. “It’s, uh. Changed him. The business, and all that.”
“Interesting.” She takes a sip of her water. No ice, like requested. It’s room temperature. “With the state I’m in, I might regret asking. Call it morbid curiosity. Why do you call him Mr. White? You refer to Mike by his first name, so it’s not an age thing.”
Jesse looks over at her with a lopsided smile. “Would you believe me if I told you he used to be my high school chem teacher?”
She tries to gauge if he’s messing with her or not. He doesn’t add that he’s just kidding or the like, though.
“I might be inclined to believe it.” She stabs another lettuce leaf with her plastic fork. “If only because there are far more believable lies to tell.”
“Yeah, like, I ain’t shittin’ you. He was the nerdiest teacher in the whole school.” His smile slowly fades. “Totally flunked me.”
“Yet, he approached you to cook methamphetamine together? Or, you approached him?” It’s almost absurd. Yo, Mr. White, can I cook some meth with you? Extra cred and shit, bitch, Jesse would probably say.
“Yeah. No. He just showed up and wanted to break bad outta nowhere. This was like, years later.” He leans his head against the window. “He needed an in, and he figured I was Cap’N Cook. I know, it was as weird to me then as it sounds to you now.”
She wants to ask how Jesse went from a failing chemistry grade to becoming a meth cook, but she still hasn’t processed that Walter White was a schoolteacher. Lydia sniffs. “Interesting.”
“Yeah. Like, dude wouldn’t even drink soda back then. Total straight-edge hardass. Talked about the chemicals in soda and how they use ‘em to clean trucks, and how addictive caffeine is.”
Whatever pushed Walter to become a meth cook, Lydia can’t imagine. Money, perhaps. Teachers aren’t exactly known for their high salaries. Still, if he’s some type of chemistry genius like Jesse claimed- and a ‘straight-edge hardass’- then weren’t there steps he could take before turning to the drug world?
Not that she’s one to judge. She’s well aware that, sometimes, there are no other paths one can take in life. At least her daughter won’t have to live a life like this.
“I suppose then- I say this as an off-color joke- he didn’t have a habit of chaining students to desks and threatening to kill them.”
Jesse laughs. “Might as well’ve been like that. One time, I scored like-- it was like a 15 on a test, and he held me back after school and just kept yelling at me about how I gotta apply myself. Felt like it was for hours. I thought he was gonna pop a blood vessel, he was so pissed. Said I was pissing away my future and I was gonna end up a total loser.”
Lydia gives him a look of concern. Jesse doesn’t look phased. “Guess he was right,” he finishes.
“That… um. That sounds difficult for you to have experienced.”
“Ain’t like I wasn’t used to it. I was a total fuckup-- still am, I guess. Would be just a constant thing, like I’d get up and my Dad was yelling, and then the teachers would be yelling…”
She isn’t sure what to say. She stares at the salad, as if it has the answers. “I understand.”
“S’ just my life.”
The music fades out. A new concerto begins. Lydia puts the plastic lid back on her salad container. “If you’re done, you can start driving.”
“Yeah.” Jesse tosses his trash in the paper bag. She follows suit, and within a minute, they’re driving again.
“I already mentioned my childhood wasn’t pleasant.” Lydia looks at her reflection in the side-view mirror. “I try to not dwell on it.”
“Me neither, usually.” He lets out a breath.
She’s not entirely sure why she speaks again. “You could still walk away. Mike and Walter could carry out the heist.”
“Dunno.” His voice comes out small. “What else would I do?”
“With all due respect, you’re young. You’re- what- 21?”
“I don’t know. It’s not my problem. Just, you could figure it out, is all I’m saying. What about Brock?”
He gives her a sideways glance. “You remembered?”
“This type of activity isn’t common for me. It’s hard to forget the conversation we had last time.” She’s silent for a moment. “I still can’t believe I’m here. Doing this again, with you.”
“Life’s funny like that, huh?”
“That’s one way of putting it.” She sighs. “Just… you want to be a father, and you don’t have passion for cooking anymore. Why are you doing this? Just because of Walter?”
He grips the steering wheel tightly. “It ain’t like I’m much better than he is.”
“If you want my advice, it’s just as important to know when to walk away as it is to know when to accept a deal. I won’t tell you when that is. Just consider it.”
“Shit, uh. Guess I’ll think about it. Thanks.”
It’s strange. She really does feel almost relaxed. If she put everything else out of her mind, she could pretend that this was a normal late-night outing with a friend.
It must be an ungodly hour of the night when they make it to Lydia’s house, because the nanny is asleep on the couch and Kiira is actually in bed. After she sends the nanny home, she finds Jesse standing outside the door, to her absolute horror.
“What are you doing?” she hisses. “You can’t be here. I don’t want people to get ideas, and this wasn’t a date.”
“Yo, chill out. I was just gonna ask if I could use your bathroom.” He doesn’t seem perturbed by her accusation-- maybe he’s used to it by now. “Got a long trip back.”
Lydia has an internal debate- if he were going to attack her or do something perverted, he would have done it already- before opening the door and allowing him inside. “Down the hall, on your left. Be quick about it, and wash your hands.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he says with a snort. She ignores the sarcasm. She knows how many men don’t wash their hands, and the last thing she needs is her daughter getting sick.
The high is starting to wear off. Lydia pulls out a chair at the kitchen table and turns on her electric water heater. Chamomile should help her get a little rest before this terrible night ends. She notes with a frown that she’s low on Stevia.
A moment later, she’s cursing herself for making too much noise, because she hears Kiira’s voice: “Mommy?”
Lydia’s face lights up as soon as she sees Kiira standing in the doorway. She’s already in her pajamas, thank goodness. She scoops her daughter up into her arms. “What are you doing up, honey?”
“Missed you.” Kiira rests her head on Lydia’s shoulder. “You smell funny.”
Oh god, oh god, oh god. “Yes, um, Mommy needs to take a bath. It’s been a very long day.”
“Mommy’s smelly.” Kiira giggles.
“Let’s get you back in bed.” Lydia begins to head toward her bedroom. “Did you leave your teddy bear in bed, honey?”
“No, I had him…”
Lydia pauses. Who other than Jesse Pinkman stands in the hallway, observing a teddy bear in his hands. He gives a gentle smile and holds the teddy bear out to Kiira.
“Yo, I think this guy got lost trying to find his way back to the bedroom,” he says, softly. “What’s his name?”
Kiira takes the bear back, dangling it carelessly by its ear. That’s probably how it got lost and into Jesse’s possession-- she doubts him the type to steal it.
“His name’s Mr. Teddy,” Kiira answers, as if imparting very important information onto Jesse.
He nods sagely, taking this in. “Classic. I like it.” His eyes flicker to Lydia, then back to Kiira. “You and Mr. Teddy get some good shut-eye in, okay?”
Kiira pouts. “I didn’t get a story.”
“Honey, it’s very late,” Lydia interjects, but Kiira starts to whine.
Fortunately, Jesse jumps in. “Yo, I have a good bedtime story. The best one ever.”
“Jesse, you don’t need to--”
“I wanna hear the funny man’s story.” Kiira looks up at Lydia with puppy dog eyes.
She can feel herself giving in because of that cute little face. Jesse wants to be a father, right? He could read her a simple bedtime story while she changes into clothing that doesn’t smell of marijuana and fast food. Lydia sighs. “Okay. But only if Jes-- if Mr. Pinkman is okay with it.”
“You know it, yo. It’s gonna be really good.” As he speaks, he gets a far-away look in his eyes. “You know, my mom told me this one forever ago. Ever heard of a certain guy called Peter Pan?”
“Like in Disney?” Kiira asks.
“Yeah, like Disney. It’s a story about a little boy who gets to be a kid forever, and he goes on like, adventures and stuff with his friends, the lost boys.” As he speaks, they reach Kiira’s bedroom, and Lydia puts her to bed. He pulls up a chair and sits nearby.
Lydia hesitates before walking to the bathroom, herself. She can faintly hear Jesse beginning to tell the story-- fortunately omitting his frequent use of swear words. An exhausted-looking woman stares back at her from the bathroom mirror. When’s the last time she slept? If she bathes, will her hair even have time to dry before she needs to get ready to go to Madrigal again?
After she freshens up, halfway through brushing her teeth, it hits her that she just left her four year old daughter alone with one of the most dangerous meth cooks in America.
She throws open the door, losing her heels as she sprints down the hallway. How could she be so stupid? All that talk about being a screwup was to win her sympathy so she could look the other way for a second. He could have taken her or hurt her. She’s hyperventilating by the time she reaches Kiira’s bedroom and finds Jesse, still sitting on the chair, speaking softly to Kiira.
“-- but that mean old Captain Hook was no match for Peter Pan, and he flew away after saving everyone,” Jesse is saying, and Kiira looks like she’s fighting to stay awake, but her eyelids are growing heavy. He turns his head and gives her a reassuring smile.
She starts to catch her breath. Everything’s okay. She steps into the room, Kiira looking up at her with a smile. She gives her little hand a squeeze and plants a kiss on her forehead, waiting a moment before feeling comfortable leaving the room again.
Her tea must be ready. As strange as the circumstances were, Jesse did introduce her to a few new things. She thinks it wouldn’t hurt to send him on his way with a cup of tea to reinvigorate him. Maybe ginger tea with Stevia could be to Jesse what french fries are to her.