There are certain things in life one never expects. A tall charismatic man in an old-fashioned military coat walking into his pie shop was not one of them. Even less expected was the way he strolled - no, sauntered up to the counter, practically oozing charm. The blinding smile just added to the movie star effect. Ned twitched, wishing he could get away from the man. But Olive was otherwise engaged and he had no choice but to interact. He was useless at small talk.
The man hadn't even looked at the pies. His eyes were trained disconcertingly at Ned. He...didn't do well when people stared at him. And even less well when people leaned into his personal space, much like the man was doing now. He resisted the urge to step backwards. It wouldn't have been good form to back away from a customer.
"It's the filling. That's more important. Crusts are crusts, but it's the fruit that counts. And it's not that crusts aren't important, they're the thing which holds it together and might even be more important than the filling, though it's really more of a crust and filling living in harmony thing and why are you looking at me like that?"
The man's demeanor had softened slightly, but not enough for Ned's comfort. The smile was just that bit more sincere, the eyes just that bit more amused. The man let out a small huff of laughter, deflecting Ned's question.
"I'll have some blueberry then."
Ned scurried away, trying not to think of how suggestive the man had made his order seem. The tone would have been enough, he hadn't needed to add the eyebrow wiggle. Where was Olive? This should be Olive's job. That's why he hired her. She was the one who interacted with people, not him.
He found her checking on one of the pies in the oven.
"Olive! Customer up front! If you could get him a slice of blueberry-"
She leaned around him, got one look at the man and with a quick "Sure thing, boss!" dashed off. She'd left the oven door opened. Ned closed it and leaned against the wall. He let a feeling of relief wash over him. He closed his eyes, inhaling the comforting scent of flour, baking, fresh fruit and dead flowers.
When he opened them, the comforting tableau of his work surface called to him. This was good, this was normal. Normal was not a movie-star good looks man with eyes far too old for his face. Something about him made Ned uncomfortable. Well, something other than the flirting. People flirting with him was an uncomfortable and unwelcome, but more regular experience. This, this was something else.
It wasn't a busy morning, so their voices filtered through to the work area.
"Captain Jack Harkness. And who are you?"
Her voice was far too breathy. Ned shook his head and floured the table, taking care to coat it evenly. The familiar motions soothed his frazzled nerves. There was nothing but him and the ingredients to make another perfect pie.
He was jerked out of the process by the sound of Olive's trilling laughter. A deeper laugh followed hers. Ned twitched again.
Someone rang the bell at the counter and he started, spilling flour over himself. He blinked away the cloud and turned to look to the front. Olive was oblivious to the customer trying to catch her attention. She was completely focused on Jack. And Jack, in turn, was completely focused on her. Ned relaxed infinitesimally.
He cast a longing glance towards the beckoning promise of unfinished pies laid out before him. Then again, he had to make money to run this place somehow. He sighed and moved to the front, plastering a smile on his face.
Luckily, the lovely young woman waiting there didn't seemed too put off about Olive's lack of attention.
"Hi. Sorry to keep you waiting," Ned's smile turned into something more natural.
"It's perfectly alright," her British accent was startling, but pleasing, "There's no getting Jack back when he's like this. Unless you're the Doctor." Her tone was wry, though the last bit was spoken more quietly. It took Ned a moment to realize she knew the walking wall of charm flirting with his waitress. A trickle of unease wound its way down his spine. His eyes flicked towards Jack and back.
"What can I get you?" He hoped his desire for the two to leave very quickly wasn't visible on his face. These people were different somehow, and it was putting him on edge. If he wasn't careful, they were going to barge in here and change things. A small voice in the back of his head told him it might very well be too late.
"Whatever Jack's having," she smirked, "he does seem to be enjoying himself."
"Oh, Martha Jones. Good food, beautiful people, what's not to enjoy?"
Jack followed up on his words with a nice, long leer at all of them and an almost obscene lick of his spoon. Martha just laughed, while Olive practically melted. Ned shifted uncomfortably.
"I'll go get that pie. And be somewhere...not here," he bolted.
He entered the haven of his kitchen, intent on getting the appropriate pie and then getting back here as soon as possible. The tinkle of the bell door stopped him in his tracks.
An overly cheerful (British) voice sounded.
"Martha! Jack! There you lot are! Herd of Triglids on the loose and you're eating pie. Oh, pie! Any banana perchance?"
Ned experienced a sinking sensation.