Title: Five Times Ned's Made Exceptions For Chuck
Rating: G? PG? (It's fluffy-fluff fluffiness!)
Word Count: approximately 2,665.
Characters/Pairings: Ned, Chuck. Ned/Chuck.
Genre: Fluff; Romance.
Disclaimer: I don't own Pushing Daisies or its characters. If I did, it would not have been canceled!
Warning: This is unbeta-ed. But it should be a-okay to read considering English is my first language and all... Nevertheless, even though I reread it, if someone notices a mistake (typo or other), let me know and I'll fix it.
Summary: Going chronologically backward, five particular instances Ned's made an exception for Chuck.
["What if …" He bit his lower lip. "You didn't have to be dead?" / Math, rules, symmetry – all of it be damned.]
"This is your idea of a vacation?" questioned the pie-maker of the girl he calls Chuck as he buttoned the buttons of his winter coat until there remained nothing to button.
The girl he called Chuck tilted her head slightly to her left and raised an eyebrow. "I thought you liked the snow."
"Believe me, I have no objections against the snow. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of the cold, but I'll deal. It's the location where the snow is that … troubles me."
For at that very moment, Ned the pie-maker and Charlotte "Chuck" Charles were situated on a mountaintop of snow. Situated next to them were two pairs of skis for their own personal, though, unprepared use.
"You know I don't know how to ski, right?"
"Well, neither do I! Doesn't mean we can't still try, right? Oh, c'mon, Ned it's a baby slope. It's nothing that dangerous. You're not afraid, are ya?"
"Generally speaking, anything that can lead to death is dangerous and pretty much anything can lead to death, even tiny baby mountaintop slopes with the most innocuous of intentions. And, generally speaking, death is not our friend, Chuck."
Chuck giggled a covert giggle and said: "What's life without a little death?"
To which Ned replied: "A good, albeit, slow for my second profession, day."
The girl called Chuck stitched her eyebrows together and nodded. "Hmm. Interesting perspective," she declared, and promptly plunged down the slope.
Within seconds, the pie-maker she left behind rolled his eyes, moaned in an irritated fashion, and wrapped his scarf tightly around his neck. He took a deep breath and followed.
A considerable distance down below, Chuck picked herself up and brushed some snow off her winter gear. "See! Wasn't that fun and refreshing and exciting and –"
"Painful?" Ned added from his awkward landing (though the term "falling" may be more suitable) position only a few feet away.
Making her way over to him, Chuck inquired, "Did ya get any bruises?"
"Feels like it. Though I think the biggest damage is in my head. Don't know what possessed me to do that."
She smiled, adding: "Thank you for trying it. And I promise to tend to any bruises personally later on."
Chuck pulled the scarf of the pained pie-maker over his mouth and planted pleasant kisses.
Ned shifted his body to a sitting position and felt sharp pain in his side. But blue-gloved hands touched long, wavy, snow-flaked hair, while red gloves held a chilled and half-scarf-covered face, and our pie-maker decided, then and there, that it was worth it.
Our Ned was not typically a tardy person. In fact, he was quite the opposite. His punctuality was a trait he had prided himself on for years, along with his organization and meticulousness.
Yet on this particular morning, he had overslept, as various thoughts of his newly alive-again Chuck and the possible repercussions had overwhelmed his tired mind the night before.
And on this particularly delayed morning, he was quite particularly displeased with the fact that the universe did not choose to cooperate with him.
He had grabbed his black sweater from the closet and attempted to put it on, but no matter how he twisted and turned, collaboration between the underdressed pie-maker and the ebony fabric seemed futile.
He pulled the sweater off of his one arm and placed it in front of him to inspect. Worrisome wonders began an invasion of his brain almost immediately with inquiries such as: Did this shrink in the wash? I can't possibly still be growing, can I?
"Huh," he murmured to himself, realizing the sweater was not his, but Chuck's.
Ned turned back to the closet and noticed the evident pattern that had previously eluded him.
The closet had undergone rearrangement, services provided by the alive-again Charlotte Charles. What had once been a neat row of black button-down shirts and gray vests had turned into a configuration of colors.
Chuck's vivid clothes were intermeshed with his. What had once been bland had been revived with several splashes of colors. Ned surveyed the design, his eyes trailing from left to right: solid navy blue button-down, an orange polka-dotted dress, a gray pair of slacks, an immensely bright white shirt traced with vibrant yellow roses. And so it continued.
"Hey! You found my sweater."
The unexpected voice of his childhood sweetheart startled the pie-maker. "Huh? Oh, yeah. It … uh, might be stretched in one arm. Don't ask me why."
"I'll ask another question instead. What do you think of the closet's renovation? All your T-shirts are in that dresser over there. Don't worry; I folded them well enough so there won't be any unwanted wrinkles."
Ned carefully returned the sweater to its rightful owner and procured his own off the hanger, right next to a V-necked red summer dress.
"I … uh ..." he stammered.
The pie-maker did not enjoy disarray.
"It's … uh …" He hesitated some more as he pulled his own sweater on.
Adjusting his sweater, he caught a whiff of a scent. Strange, exotic, desirable. It took a second for him to realize it was Chuck's. It's Chuck's perfume, it's Chuck's deodorant, it's even Chuck's perspiration. Any way one names it, in the end, it's Chuck. It's the girl that the pie-maker could never touch or get close enough to smell for himself.
Ned did not enjoy disarray.
But he could not have been more honest in his response to the question concerning the closet's renovation, as he replied (accompanied by an unmatchable smile): "I love it."
The permanent death of his mother when young Ned was only 9 years, 27 weeks, 6 days, 22 hours, and 7 minutes old had taught the boy a profound appreciation for fully understanding rules, especially those that were as clear as day and night. (First touch: life. Second touch: dead again, forever.)
In all the academic subjects offered at the Longborough School for Boys, these distinct rules were only found in one specific subject: mathematics.
For young Ned soon learned that one plus one will always equal two and nothing can change that. The laws in mathematics are ironclad and if he followed them, he would always find a sound solution for problems. (Though, admittedly, he was still trying to convince himself that three minus two resulted in the numeral one, and not abandonment and loneliness.)
His particular favorite branch of mathematics was geometry. A whole topic dedicated to memorizing rules and obtaining an answer. It was all that the would-be pie-maker could ask for from a school subject.
And so when a newly breathing Chuck warily requested that Ned be her first and last kiss, Ned reacted with a slight chuckle and a "It's not weird ... it's symmetrical."
Thoughts of her – of this, of seeing her again – had played in his head for twenty years (or 20 years, 31 weeks, 5 days, and 23 minutes, to be exact).
Frequently, he had acknowledged these thoughts as an impractical impossibility and the thoughts had remained as fleeting feelings of the past where pies had been baked for loving purposes, not commercial ones, and worlds of clay had been fashioned on warm summer days to be subsequently trampled upon with two pairs of feet, belonging to happy children.
Still, there had been times when those thoughts had turned to more than evanescent emotions for the pie-maker. There were times when those thoughts had become fixations, dwelled upon for minutes and minutes on end, lingering on the joys that she might bring to his life, on the world they might create, not of clay, but of flour and adventure and surreptitious smiles.
Frozen in position, Ned opened his eyes and gazed at the face in front of him. Chuck's hair was darker than he remembered it; her cheeks were redder, her lips fuller. But she's as beautiful as she'd ever been; she's still the same girl he had a cru-, was in lo-, shared his first kiss with.
And like that, Ned could no longer will his lips to go any further.
"What if …" He bit his lower lip. "You didn't have to be dead?"
Math, rules, symmetry – all of it be damned.
As much as the Longborough School for Boys resembled a juvenile prison, they did encourage communication with the outside world.
When Ned first arrived, he noticed the boys at school wrote to their family and friends. One boy would write to his parents living in Europe, another to a penpal in China.
Young Ned, however, had no family to write to. He was fairly certain writing to the deceased might be overly morbid for the faculty at the Longborough School for Boys to handle. As for writing to his father (the postcard with his father's newest address and family was safely stored under his mattress, hidden from sight, but not from his heart), the young pie-maker would rather risk writing to a grave and being deemed mentally ill than writing an awkward letter to the man he once called "Dad" and open up, as they say, "a whole new can of worms."
Ned would often sit and watch the others open letters written on stationary paper edged with decorative decorations and packages wrapped with a little bow, containing homemade chocolate chip cookies. Sighing, he would often signal Digby to follow him outside.
Picking up a twig tangled in the grass, the lonely boy pet his dog and scoffed. "Writing's useless, isn't it, Digby? We don't need anyone to talk to, do we? We have each other. That's more than all the other kids can ask for. Right?"
The canine companion licked his lips and whined.
Alas, according to Digby, young Ned was not "right."
When Ned was 14 years, 21 weeks, 4 days, 8 hours, and 33 minutes old, something happened that made him agree with his golden-haired friend.
It was precisely 12:36 and 17 seconds in the P.M. when the Biology teacher at the Longborough School for Boys introduced the day's topic: bees.
The attempt to teach the growing boy anything about the life of bees that day became futile. His attention wandered to memories of the girl who had once lived next door.
At the approximate age of 9 years, 10 weeks, 3 days, 12 hours, and 52 minutes, most boys' interest in ants, bees, and insects of the sort typically involved hot fiery sunlight, a magnifying glass, and viciously vicious intentions.
The girl called Chuck, however, had no such vicious intentions. Her interest in bees had peaked when she learned all about the formation of honey in the second grade and her interest in insect and animal life had only been amplified from there.
And so when all the other boys had been smashing ladybugs with their thumbs, young Ned had helped collect butterflies, earthworms, and the like for Chuck.
In the present, exactly three and a half hours after the sun set on another day at the town of Northrush, and exactly ten and half hours after his Biology class ended, the unofficial pie-maker took out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote to Chuck.
He asked her about everything. He asked if she still claimed herself to be the protector of insects; he asked what it was like to live with two ex-synchronized swimmers; he asked if she ever thought about their childhood games; he asked if it was all right that he did almost daily (though, not in a "mulling" sort of way, he reminded himself, save for the Biology bee lesson incident).
The first letter he wrote at the Longborough School for Boys concerned questions, the second concerned statements (I really miss playing with you and The food here kind of sucks; I wish I could sneak away and have a homemade meal with you and your aunts one day), the third concerned forbidden confessions (I know we weren't even ten, but that kiss, with you, at the cemetery … pretty much the best thing that's happened to me since my mom died).
They all concerned Chuck.
And though they were written (the first time Ned had dared to pick up a pen and write an actual letter like the rest of his schoolmates), they all became stashed under his mattress, next to his father's postcard.
One day, Ned assured himself, he would give them to her … in person.
It's not that small Ned didn't like to share his things. Really. It wasn't that at all!
The parents of little Ned had done a perfectly perfect job teaching their son to share his toys and belongings with his peers, hitherto.
However, still experiencing homesickness, Ned, only a preschooler, preferred to keep any and all sugared delights to himself. The pieces of pie that his mother packed for him kept him calm at school, reminding him that in a few hours, he would be able to go home and see his parents and goldfish.
Unfortunately, the daily pieces of pie ceased to come as his mother became worried that she was overindulging her child and unintentionally contributing to his development of a sweet tooth.
His mother had not been wrong.
On this particular Valentine's Day, like all Valentine Days, the public elementary school in the town of Coeur d'Coeurs distributed a heart-shaped cookie to its students, (a sort of present to put a smile on the children's face), approximately six weeks after the typical holiday season.
When he received the sugary treat, Ned placed the cookie carefully on the napkin in front of him, treating it as if it was the most important thing in the world (and at his young age, it very likely was).
Certainly entranced with it, the to-be pie-maker studied the heart intently as he licked his finger, tinged with the beads of sugar from the cookie. As he was about to devour his treat, he was distracted by the sound of distraught crying.
The crying girl was sitting two seats and one table away from Ned. He recognized her as Charlotte Charles, the new girl in the quiet town of Coeur d'Coeurs and his very own next door neighbor.
The teacher, Miss Roberta Roberts, rushed over to the weeping child and tried to console her, while trying to clean up the mess that the now-shattered heart-shaped cookie left on the floor.
Charlotte continued sobbing over her fallen cookie and begged for another. But as it often happens, there were none left to give.
Young Ned turned his attention back to his own cookie, intending to complete the intention he had had concerning the cookie a few seconds earlier.
Yet, something stopped him.
He glanced at Charlotte again. Miss Roberta's gentle hand on the girl's shoulder was doing nothing to soothe her.
But Ned was taken with her tears.
He had seen people cry before, of course. He didn't like it, but he accepted it. After all, he knew that whatever pain caused the tears would be eventually forgotten.
Still, there was something about the youngest Charles's crying that Ned could not shake off. He was quite a few feet away from her, but it was as if her hiccups came from his own throat, her wails from his own lips, her tears from his own eyes.
Young Ned looked at his cookie once more, tracing the edge of it with his tiny finger.
He swallowed hard and got up from his chair. He trended slowly to the crying Charlotte, situated two seats and one table away from him, until he was standing right in front of her withdrawn body and red, sugar-coated, splintered heart.
She looked up at the new presence with wonderment.
And at the age of 4 years, 16 weeks, 2 days, 15 hours, and 1 minute old, the boy who would grow to be the pie-maker extended his right hand forward and gave the girl he would one day call Chuck, his heart.
Author's Notes: I had been meaning to write a Pushing Daisies fic for a while and then I just got a few random ideas in my head. Not knowing how to tie them all together, I decided to write a "Five Times" fic (my first try ever for both the PD fic and the Five Times!) Hopefully, I did both things justice! Anyway, this was just a way to celebrate my beloved, but demised Ned/Chuck ship.
Please feel free to leave some feedback, whether it's complimentary or constructively critical.