Fandom: Pushing Daisies
Characters: Ned/Chuck, Olive
Word Count: 1,408 words
Betas: oldromantic, bistyboo1974
Summary: Twenty years after baking his first pie, Ned finds that the best remembrances are shared.
Author’s Note: A birthday fic for maaike_fluffy. Her prompt: “I would love to read about Ned/Chuck baking pie together...” Set after Season 1. The timestamps mentioned within are slightly modified for the purposes of the story.
At this very moment, while sitting on a stool at a charming pastry shop known as The Pie Hole, in the quaint little town of Lakeshore... Charlotte Charles was perplexed. This state of mind did not bother the girl better known as “Chuck,” in fact, she rather enjoyed it. Especially since she was contemplating the strange behavior of Ned, The Pie Maker.
Chuck had been officially dead for 30 weeks, 4 days, 14 hours and 1 minute. She did not find in her peculiar sort of afterlife that she was granted any supernatural wisdom, however. So, she did what any normal girl would do, whether alive, or brought back to life… she observed him. Ned, as pie makers often do, was working in the kitchen.
Chuck felt the brush of a shoulder and she looked up.
“He’s masterful to watch, isn’t he?” Olive Snook sighed. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.”
Olive and Chuck had recently come to an understanding. Olive still adored her pie maker as much as the day she had first tasted one of his pies, but all she really wanted was for Ned to be happy. And Chuck made Ned happy.
“I mean, I could get tired if he worked all night at it… but I’m not sure, he usually doesn’t work that late unless there’s some sort of big order the next day—”
“What’s he doing?” Chuck asked suddenly, cutting off Olive’s musings.
“Making pies…” Olive turned to look at Chuck with an odd, pinched expression. “Are you feeling all right, honey?” She lifted a hand and placed it gently on Chuck’s forehead.
“I feel right as rain, though there was something a little off about the milk this morning…” she said, somehow infected by Olive’s need to over-explain. “But that’s not what I mean. Something is different today.”
“Oh?” Olive leaned over the counter to get a better look.
Olive Snook saw all of the tools of The Pie Maker’s trade, laid out on the preparation surface, just like any other business day. He rolled out the dough with an expression of deep concentration. His filling was in a bowl beside him, a few scraps of apple rind and a black seed dotting the countertop. Olive saw nothing out of the ordinary. She wondered what it was that the girl named Chuck was noticing.
“Yes, you see, he has been handling the ingredients really carefully, I mean, more than he usually does…”
Actually, Chuck had watched him slice the Granny Smith apples with a sort of ritual precision. And when a piece had accidentally landed on his bare skin above the latex gloves, it had remained distinctly fresh-looking. He was not using his normal batch of spoiled fruit for this pie. But she could not explain this fact to Olive – Olive was still unaware of Ned’s special gift.
So, instead, Chuck added, “He’s also following a scrap of old paper, instead of working from memory.”
“An old—? Oh!” Olive jumped a fraction and looked at the calendar. “Oh, my goodness! I totally forgot it was April tenth…”
“What?” Chuck sat up taller, interested. “What is on April tenth?”
“It’s the anniversary of the day he baked his first pie.”
Chuck’s interested expression shifted into one of melancholy. For she knew why The Pie Maker had begun his obsession with pie making. It helped him honor the memory of his own dead mother. “I bet it tastes wonderful…”
Olive frowned. “I wouldn’t know.”
“He never shares that pie. He bakes it, and puts it in a box untouched. The pie is always gone in the morning, though.” Olive shrugged. “I don’t know what he does with it.”
At that moment, the bell to the door of the shop jingled, and Olive Snook went to check on The Pie Hole’s newest customer. Chuck’s gaze never faltered from watching Ned, though. After a few more minutes, she rose and walked slowly into the kitchen.
The Pie Maker did not look up at Chuck’s entrance, so fixated was he on getting his recipe just right. It was not until a shadow fell over his work area that he responded, “Are we running out of the peach? I knew I should have made more, but it’s always tricky to gauge how much people will want when they’re out of season…”
“The peach is fine, Ned,” Chuck answered with a fond smile.
“Oh! Chuck.” His face transformed, as it always did around Chuck, into a besotted grin. “Did you need something?”
“No…” she said nonchalantly, creeping close enough to peer at the yellowed scrap of paper on the left corner of the table. “What are you making?”
“Um…” he started, the smile faltering slightly. “Apple pie.”
“I can see that. But what kind?”
“Just your basic apple pie, nothing special. That is, unless you really like apple pie. It is America’s baseline pie if we’re to believe the folklore. But I’ve found that more people seem to pref…”
The Pie Maker trailed off at Chuck’s look of sympathy. He did not know why he had suddenly wanted to keep Chuck in the dark about the meaning of this pie, especially after he had determined to be truthful with her from now on.
“It’s my mother’s pie. Or, at least, the one I think she used to bake.” He gestured to the paper with one latex-covered hand. “This is the recipe I’ve followed since I was almost ten years old.”
Chuck reached into a box beside her, and pulled out a fresh pair of gloves. “Need any help?” she asked, already putting the gloves on.
“Oh, no, that’s okay… I–I like to do this one myself. It’s sort of… special to me.”
“Because it’s the anniversary of the first one?”
Ned frowned for a moment at her seeming precognition, but with a quick look into the dining area, he knew that Olive had already filled her in. “Twenty years, actually.”
“Wow. Really special, then.”
Ned nodded. He felt strange. He wanted to tell her that he needed to do this alone, that he had always observed this tradition alone… but he also treasured every moment he had with Chuck, and he could not bear to send her away…
“It’s nice that you remember her this way.” Chuck carefully placed her gloved hand on top of his.
Ned looked up into the eyes of his beloved Chuck. He had spent twenty years remembering his mother this way, recalling the way she had made him feel warm and safe. Ned didn’t know how many years he could see in Chuck’s eyes. Would she live forever, never aging, like his dog, Digby? Or would he lose her in a cruel accident of fate?
“The filling goes in next,” he said, pointing needlessly to the bowl of apple mixture.
Together they added one spoonful at a time, taking turns filling the lower crust near to bursting. Chuck followed his lead in slicing the decorative perforations in the upper crust, never once making a suggestion – not even to add cheese. They pressed the ridges into the edges, working counterclockwise until Chuck’s last ridge blended into Ned’s first ridge.
“Beautiful,” Chuck pronounced just before the pie went into the oven. “What now?”
“Well, I…” Ned had always taken his pie home once it had been baked. He had placed it by his bedside since opening the shop, rather than sleeping curled around the pie. The smells would fill his room for the night, and then in the morning, he would eat a slice, just one. One more he would place at an empty seat at his kitchen table. He would imagine his mother eating the pie, marveling at how well her son had mastered the recipe…
The Pie Maker turned toward Chuck with sudden determination. “When it’s done, would you like to share it?”
Many hours later, in the early hours of the morning, The Pie Hole was quiet and still. If one visited the kitchen, one would see four dishes, littered with apple pie crumbs, though Emerson Cod’s plate would be wiped clean.
Out in the dining area, however, rested two plates at a booth, each containing one slice of pie.
And in Ned and Chuck’s dreams that same night, though neither would know it until later, they dreamed of Ned’s mother – and Chuck’s father – sharing a friendly bite of pie.
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