A/N: Hello all! Welcome to my first-ever Pushing Daisies fanfic! I know the show has been cancelled for awhile, but it's still my favorite… I love it! I've been toying around with this idea for a bit and finally decided to do something with it.

Enjoy!

PROLOGUE

Graduation day at the Longborough School for Boys was a highly celebrated and joyous affair… for most students.

Young Ned… Well, he wasn't so young anymore. He was seventeen years, twelve weeks, three days, nine hours, and fifty-three minutes old when he joined his fellow graduates on the tiny stage of the school's auditorium, waiting to, at long last, receive his diploma. As the school's headmaster droned endlessly on about "hard work" and "perseverance", Ned's eyes scanned the sea of faces in the crowd, subconsciously trying to quell the fervent hopes that were springing up inside of him.

It had been seven years, thirty weeks, three days, thirteen hours, and nineteen minutes since his father had deposited him at the school's doorstep, leaving him with nothing but a simple promise – a promise that Ned had been desperately clinging to for all these years: "I'll be back".

Mere weeks after he was abandoned, young Ned received the only message that his father had ever sent him during his entire stay at the Longborough School – a pre-printed postcard announcing that his father had moved. Sneaking away one Halloween night, young Ned's heart was crushed to find that his father had a brand-new family… one that did not include Ned.

From that day forward, Ned had tried desperately to never again even think of his father, or any of the other painful memories that still lingered from his childhood. And though he did his best to fulfill the promise he had made to himself, Ned often did much more than think – he imagined. He imagined that one morning he would wake up to find that the past several years of his life had been a mere dream – that his father had never left him and his mother, that his mother had never died, that Digby had never been hit by that truck, that he still lived next door to the girl named Chuck, that he had never been cursed with his horrible power, and, above all, that his father truly loved him.

And so, ashamed as he was to admit it, Ned found himself, once again, imagining. As he looked out into the audience and saw the joy and pride on each parent's face, he imagined that there was another face among them – perhaps slightly more lined or weary than he remembered, but a face he was sure he would recognize anywhere. Tomorrow, Ned would pack up his things and leave the Longborough School for good – this was his father's last chance to fulfill his promise.

But as Ned finally walked across the stage to shake the headmaster's hand and receive his diploma, he was met with polite applause from the audience – no loud whooping or cheering that stood out among the rest, no cries of "Way to go!" or "That's my boy!" that he had heard as many of his classmates took this same walk.

Blankly glancing down at the rolled paper in his hand, Ned realized that this meant his stay at the school he hated so much had officially come to an end. But he couldn't even bring himself to smile. Because no matter where Ned went from here, he would still be just as alone and abandoned as he had been for the past eight years.

As the other students rushed off the stage to join their smiling parents, Ned took one last fleeting, hopeful glance at the crowd before trudging wearily back to his room to start packing. He found Digby sitting beside his bed, wagging his tail happily as his master entered.

"At least I've got you, Digby." Ned smiled half-heartedly as he spoke, wishing he could give his furry best friend a scratch behind the ears. Sure, I've got Digby… he thought sadly. But is that really enough?

Ned sighed heavily, suddenly wishing he had someone there that could give him some sort of physical affection… a hug, a handshake, even a pat on the back. Some sign that someone, anyone cared about him.

But his mother was long dead, and no matter how hard he prayed or dreamed, he could never have her back. The girl named Chuck was miles away in Coeur d' Coeurs, and had surely forgotten about him years ago. And his father…

Ned did his best to choke back his emotion as a crushing feeling of loneliness suddenly struck him. He threw himself back onto his tiny bed, not even bothering to remove his cap and gown. He stared at the ceiling intently, not quite sure what he expected the cracking white plaster to tell him, but frustrated nonetheless when it did nothing but stare right back at him.

"So what's next for us, Digby?" He muttered. "Where do we go from here?"

While most of his classmates would be heading off to college in the fall, Ned had instead applied to every culinary institute in the state… and had been rejected by every single one. His dream of turning his beloved hobby into a lifetime career had been abandoned months before. Ned had instead planned to use a portion of the money left to him by his mother to rent a small apartment in the city – but had forgotten that he was not yet eighteen, and was therefore unable to settle on his own.

But there was nothing he could do about it – tomorrow morning, Ned would be thrust into the world with nothing but a small suitcase of belongings and the slowly dwindling contents of his bank account. Ned tried to convince himself that he would make it somehow. Surely, somewhere out there, he would find a temporary home for himself and Digby.

And from there… well, Ned tried to avoid thinking about the future almost as much as he tried to avoid thinking about the past. He was also just as unsuccessful. Ned knew that what remained of his inheritance was certainly not enough to live on – not for very long. He would soon need to find a job, start a life… something, he now realized, he wasn't quite ready for.

As Ned was suddenly hit with the horrifying realization that he had no idea what he was going to do with his life, there was a soft knock at the door. Ned leapt up suddenly. "Come in!" He called, puzzled at who on earth it could be. The only other people who ever visited the room were his roommates, and they certainly never knocked.

"Excuse me," the kindly old lady smiled as she peeked through the door. "We're cleaning out the mailroom for the end of term and we've found several letters that were never claimed."

Ned flopped back onto the bed, disinterested. "Oh." He said simply. "Well you can just put them on the desk… they're not here."

"Alright, dear." The woman smiled sweetly as she began flipping through her stack of mail. She placed a small pile of what were surely graduation cards and letters of congratulations on the small desk by the door.

She began to leave, but stopped suddenly, waving a long white envelope in the air with a smile. "I almost forgot… there's one for you, too."

"Huh?" Ned raised one of his eyebrows, certain that he had misheard her.

He approached her uncertainly and she placed the letter in his outstretched hand with a smile. "There you go, dear."

"Uh… thanks." Ned muttered, but she was already gone.

Eager to investigate, Digby had followed his master and raised his head to sniff the mysterious letter, which Ned was now eyeing with confusion.

It was a flat white envelope, postmarked nearly three weeks before. Ned's name and the school's address had been written in tiny, cramped handwriting at the center. There was no return address.

Hands trembling, Ned slowly ripped the envelope's corner, hoping against hope that he would find a card or letter from his father inside – reassurance that, though he would be unable to attend his son's graduation, he was thinking of him. That he regretted abandoning his son all those years ago and wanted to reconnect with him, to start their relationship anew. Perhaps his father would keep his promise after all…

Ned's heart leapt as he finally reached the contents of the envelope. It's now or never… He thought, as he unfolded the crisp white sheet of paper and began to read. Though what he had been hoping for was a letter of apology from his father, what he found instead was a letter of a different sort.

It was an acceptance letter, from The Dominique D'Aubigne Institute of Delectable Desserts and Delights. It was the first school to which Ned had applied, and the only one from which he had never received a response. Ned had assumed it was because his application and interview had been so terrible, when in fact, it was merely because of a rather flaky secretarial staff.

Ned had to read the letter six times before he would allow himself to believe that its words were true. All his dreams, which minutes ago lay shattered at his feet, now sparkled before his eyes as perfect and vivid as ever.

Ned now realized that, though life does not always give you what you want or what you expect, what you get in its place can be just as good… maybe even better. In that moment, the boy who would one day be known as the pie maker knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed! I know PD isn't the most popular fanfic category after the show's cancellation and I won't have a lot of readers… but if you DID read it, would you pretty please review? They're the fuel that keeps me going hahaha.