A/N Second Chapter, people :) Sorry I haven't updated for a while been on holiday (I saw Brandon Flowers, it was amazing) No drunk Ned yet, I'm afraid, but it's coming :) Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Pushing Daisies or any of the characters. Unfortunately. :(
Charlotte Charles was feeling lonely. She had been having a ball touring Europe with her mother and aunt, seeing sights she had never got to see in her first life. But she wasn't having as great a time as she pretended to the Piemaker. She missed him. She missed feeling his warm presence and pure heart in the same room as her. She missed being able to hold his hand in winter, when it was cold (she had missed this especially when The Darling Mermaid Darlings took their tour to the Swiss and Italian Alps, when she'd had to wrap up head to toe every day, and caught herself thinking that it would have been less of a chore if it had meant she could hold him, and she could be held by the Piemaker).
She missed the smell and taste of his warm pies, which made her feel like home. She missed his sometimes infuriating, but eternally endearing, tightly wound attitude to life. She missed seeing him wake the dead (whether it be people, fruit, or dogs) and thanking him internally every day for giving her a new opportunity of life, which meant more than words could say. She missed the way they would work their way around the obstacles put in their way by not being able to touch; the plastic wrap, the body bags, the latex gloves and the 'petting device'. She missed feeling loved, in the way only soulmates connected not only by hearts, but also by life and death, could. And she missed returning that love.
She was sure that Ned was suffering too; he seemed to need her like oxygen, a heady, intoxicating feeling that Chuck wasn't certain whether she liked or not. But he had been the one who had encouraged her to go away, saying she needed to; she needed a break from the never-ending dance of life and death they edged through each day; a break from the bells on the slippers, and the constant calls of 'Coming!' and 'Going!' that echoed through their apartment on a daily basis. She also needed, according to Ned, a chance to get to know her mother, as her mother, not as a tied-for-first-place favourite aunt, and Lily and Vivian needed to get used to the fact that their daughter and niece was still alive (or rather, alive again).
On the first two counts, Chuck could argue against it until the cows came home. However, on the second two, there was so much truth in the Piemaker's words that she couldn't deny them, and neither could she deny Lily and Vivian time with her, or indeed herself time with Lily and Vivian. So she had gone with them, and Ned had stayed at home, telling her "I'll be fine, fine and dandy. You go and have a good time, live a normal life for a bit. I've got Emerson and Olive and Digby, and Pigby! Oh, and Maurice and Rollston!" The Piemaker had continued babbling until Chuck was out the door, but as soon as he thought she had gone, a look of such melancholy and abandonment had come onto his face and into his eyes that Charlotte, looking round, had just wanted to run back and hug him. However, she reminded herself that she couldn't hug him, however much she wanted to, and she had promised herself and the Piemaker she would enjoy herself, so holding her head high she had followed Lily and Vivian into the cab which was headed for the airport.
That had been more than two months ago, and although she had been places she had never dreamed, and tales aplenty to tell, she missed Ned like a hole in her heart, like the air she breathed. She wondered if there was a rule alive-agains had to be near their 'alive again-er', and the further away they got from them, the less alive they felt. But then Chuck disregarded that as being ridiculous and melodramatic. Checking her watch (which impressively displayed the o'clock of 24 different time zones across the world), she saw that it was just nearing 7 in Papen County, which meant the Pie Hole would almost certainly be closed, which meant she could call the Piemaker and be sure of him picking up. Although she had a sneaking suspicion that Ned had recently been sitting waiting for the phone to ring, evidenced by the fact that when she dialled the Pie Hole's number, Ned picked up before the first ring was over.
"Hello?" said Ned urgently, snatching up the phone. He hoped it wasn't a cold caller. Or Emerson.
It was Chuck.
"Hi Ned. Were you sitting by the phone, waiting for my call?"
"N-no," he stuttered. "No, of course not. W-why would you think that?" Damn. She knew him too well.
"I...I just had an inkling, that's all," said Chuck, sounding a little injured. Ned struggled to make amends.
"That is...I was expecting your call, anticipating it even, and the Pie Hole is closed so it's not like I had much else to do, but I wasn't lying in wait, if that's what you mean." Ned was glad she couldn't see his eye twitching, for that was exactly what he'd been doing, although he would prefer not to use those words.
"O.K." said Chuck, grinning. "How's your day been?"
"Oh, you know. Nice. Uneventful, just the way I like it. What about you, what adventures have you gotten up to today?" asked Ned, smiling slightly, the smile evident in his voice.
"No adventures for me today," she said sadly, "I've been on the tour bus all day. I-to tell you the truth, I've really been missing you."
The Piemaker closed his eyes and sighed in relief. "Me too." He said. He hadn't admitted it before in fear of sounding needy and clingy, but now he realised that missing your girlfriend because she'd been away for 2 months was neither of the above, but completely normal. Like an emotional Heimlich had been given to him, all of Ned's fear and anxiety came shooting out of his mouth in a big wet wad and he could breathe again. "In fact, I miss you like crazy. I've been spending every day closing the Pie Hole early, snapping at Olive and being useless to Emerson, all because I've been sitting around all day waiting for your phone call. I know this is probably selfish, especially since I was the one who encouraged you to go, and I'm really glad you're having all these adventures," He bit his lip to stop himself from saying 'without me'. "But don't you think that...the time to come home should be- could be-soon-ish," he finished lamely.
Chuck smiled to herself at her boyfriend's apologetic rambling, glad that he'd had to courage to tell her what he was really feeling, because she had begun to worry that she wasn't being missed. She thought how neat it was that, even though they couldn't physically hug, both because it would mean death for her, and because they were many thousands of miles away, on different continents, she was able to give him an emotional Heimlich, and he her one, simply by admitting how they felt.
"I agree," said Charlotte, and Ned sighed with relief that she did not think him needy or clingy, and that she, in fact, was feeling the same way. "In fact, I just called up the airport and I've booked a ticket back to Papen County for the day after tomorrow, just want to see Lily and Vivian off into Germany."
Ned smiled with joy, for the love of his life would soon be returning to him, and home would feel sweet again. Then he thought of something troubling.
"You'll be travelling alone?" Ned gulped. The last (and only) time Charlotte Charles had travelled a long distance alone, she had ended up being murdered on board a cruise ship to Tahiti. While that had turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it had allowed the Piemaker to return to his childhood sweetheart and return her to life, he had no wish for her to repeat the experience, for the magic finger would only work once.
"Yes, Ned," said Chuck placatingly, "But I'll be safe on a jet, with lots of people around. No one's going to murder me this time." Chuck had once again demonstrated that she knew the Piemaker so well that sometimes he felt like she could read his mind.
"But...airplanes fall out of the sky every day!" he said wildly.
"You don't really believe that, Ned, that's just what Aunt Vivian said. She managed to get over her fear of airplanes to fly over to Europe, and I've already been on one already, remember? Nothing happened then."
"But this time you'll be alone, and there'll be nobody there and...you'll be alone." Ned shook his head like a dog. "I've already said that. But can't you get someone to come with you...like an escort?"
"Sorry, Ned, I can't, they're all busy working full time on Lily and Vivian's show, the pyrotechnics cut out last time and Vivian's worried that if they mess up again they could get into the water, electrocuting them both!" she chuckled at Vivian's paranoia. "But if you're really that worried, I'll make sure I call you just before I get on the plane, and as soon as I get off. Is that alright?"
"I suppose so," spoke the Piemaker, reluctantly. "Will Lily and Vivian be O.K. with you going early?"
"Yeah, I think so. They'll be disappointed that I can't stay and watch them break Germany, but they'll understand, and besides, we've all had a great time together, now there are no secrets anymore, and we can just talk about everything and work our way through whatever problems and complications come up."
"Like the whole you being dead then not dead thing?"
"Yeah, well there's that. Then the whole Lily being my mother, and all the baggage that comes with hiding a secret from the world, including that you slept with your own sister's fiancé."
"Ah," said Ned.
"Oh, and I told them that Dad's alive, by the way," she said casually.
"You what?" Ned exploded. Chuck closed her eyes, feeling the Piemaker's anger wash over her. "Why would you do that? Why, Chuck?" he exclaimed exasperatedly. "Now there are just going to be too many questions, and we still don't know where your dad is, or what he's doing, and if he catches wind of this because more people are talking about him, he might ruin everything. I could end up in that big white room of my childhood dreams, where faceless scientists cut little chunks out of me till there's nothing left!" Ned's voice got higher and higher as he got more and more hysterical. Chuck winced at the pain and fear in her sweetheart's voice, pain and fear that she had caused.
"I'm sorry Ned, really I am," started Chuck apologetically. "But really, what harm can it do? It's not like they're going to go talking about in public – they've proven with me that they can keep their mouths shut and our secret safe. Why should it be any different with my dad?"
"Because...your aunts probably have grudges against your dad. He did hurt them pretty bad." Chuck sighed, accepting the truth in the Piemaker's words. "What's the betting that they try and get in contact with him, or worse, report him to the authorities, just to get revenge?"
"Because they're not that petty! And besides, no one would believe them. I mean, can you imagine the police reaction to that? 'What's that, ma'ams, your fiancé and your lover, who died 20 years ago, has returned to life?' They'd laugh in their faces."
"I suppose you're right. I hope you're right." At that moment, Emerson walked into the Pie Hole, and Ned checked the time on his trusty old watch. Nearly 8 o'clock. "You're early," Ned commented reproachfully, covering the phone speaker.
"Hardly," remarked Emerson dryly, raising one eyebrow. "You talkin' to Deadgirl?"
Ned nodded absently, trying to concentrate on what Chuck was saying. Something about flights, and arriving in Papen County airport at 5pm the day after tomorrow, and could he pick her up? "Of course," he said softly, then seeing Emerson's impatient demeanour and fingers tapping on the Pie Hole counter, he added "Look, I've got to go now, Chuck. Emerson's waiting."
"At this time? You guys got a case on?"
"No, no," said Ned. "Not case related. Emerson and I were just gonna go out for a bit."
"Oh. Huh. You do this often? 'Cause if I'd known you boys wanted to get together more often, I would've stayed out of the way. Still," she said, over Ned's stammering protests, "seems like you can't be missing me that much."
"I have been missing you!" he shouted frustratedly.
Emerson rolled his eyes and said "Oh, hell no. I just happen to come in when Pieboy and his Piegirl are having a lover's tiff. I'll just come back later, shall I?" he addressed this last comment to Ned.
"No, no, stay," said Ned, motioning distractedly for Emerson to sit back down. "I'll be done in a minute."
"Oh, you will, will you? Well-"
"Chuck, Chuck, Chuck," Ned interrupted, hopping from foot to foot. "Emerson's taking me out precisely because I've been missing you so much. I've been moping around the Pie Hole all day, closing early, waiting for your call," it pained the Piemaker to admit this, because it really did make him sound needy, but he had to make her see that she was by far and away the most important thing in his life.
"Oh." Said Chuck, dumbfounded. "I'm sorry," she said meekly. Then she said "You've been closing the Pie Hole early? How come you didn't tell me about this?"
"I...I didn't want to sound needy," he muttered finally, as quietly as possible.
"Oh, Ned, you don't sound needy! I love you." His heart leapt, as it did every time she said those words to him. However many times she showed him her love, he knew the butterflies would never go away. "See you soon, okay? Now go have a great time with Emerson. Don't drink too much!"
Ned blushed. He hadn't been planning on consuming any alcohol at all, but now Chuck said it he wondered if that's what Emerson was taking him out to do. Then he shook off the thought (for the time being) in order to say goodbye to his one and only.
"Okay. I love you too," Ned could hear Emerson mocking him in the background, but he didn't care. "See you soon..." The call ended, leaving Ned standing, swaying slightly, looking lost, until Emerson said
"Quit fooling around, fool! We gotta get going."
"Sorry." Ned shook his head and jiggled his foot, as if he had just gotten a shiver. Then he turned to follow Emerson out of the Pie Hole. He continued following him to Ned's car, where, contrary to normal, Emerson got into the driver's side, and Ned made his way round to shotgun. As he opened the door and got in, he pondered on the whys and wherefores of this particular nickname; why would you call something so seemingly harmless and obscure as a passenger seat such an obviously violent and dangerous name? He was abruptly shaken from his thoughts by Emerson violently starting up the car.
"Careful!" Ned said reproachfully. "She's very delicate, she's vintage!"
"You treat your car like you treat your women!" asked Emerson disbelievingly.
"You talk to your money on the phone!" Ned retaliated.
"So, where exactly are we going? And why do we have to take my car?"
"Mine got bashed up when we were chasing that tooth-flossing murderer, remember? Besides, I don't know how you're gonna react to what I've got planned tonight, and if you come away throwing up all over the place, I'd rather have a plastic screen between us so I don't have to get hit." He was, of course, referring to the transparent wall that the Piemaker had erected in the front of his car soon after Chuck's return, in order to allow her to ride 'shotgun'.
"So...er...what exactly are we doing, Emerson?" Ned pressed nervously.
"Nothing special," he shrugged. "Just thought I'd take you to a bar I know, we can have a few drinks, and you can kick back a bit, stop pining over Deadgirl."
"I'm not pining over her, Emerson. Not anymore. She's coming back, day after tomorrow. Can't we just go home?"
"No," Mr Cod said stubbornly, "you need to start learning how to be without Deadgirl – she's not always gonna be around. She might go off on tour again, she might visit Itty Bitty at her new restaurant, hell, she might even start to spend more time with me!" The pair laughed at the unlikelihood of that scenario. "Maybe not. But the point is, you gotta learn to like being alone with others who ain't your lover."
"I know, Emerson. But why a bar? I mean, I don't want to get drunk."
"There's nothing wrong with a little alcohol now and then," grinned Emerson.
"Yes there is. Alcohol makes you forget yourself, it makes you stupid, makes you more likely to tell tales of your secret to the world, more likely to touch people who shouldn't be touched, or lead to unsavoury incidents on a bearskin rug."
"Deadgirl ain't here, there ain't gonna be nobody at that bar who you can't touch," he chuckled a little at the innuendo, "There ain't no bearskin rugs in any place I'm drinking, and if you do tell your secret to anyone, they'll just think you're a crazy drunk!"
"But I don't want people to think I'm crazy..." Ned tailed off as Emerson interrupted, "Quit whining, we're here!"
Ned resigned himself the fact that he was going to this place, whether he liked it or not. Emerson could be forceful like that. So with more than a little trepidation on his side, and more than a little glee on Emerson's side, for the hilarious possibilities he was entertaining in his head for the night ahead, the Privater Investigator and the Piemaker opened their doors, climbed out of Ned's car and made their way towards the bar.