Disclaimer – I do not own or profit from Ed, Edd N Eddy. The Cartoon Network does, though. Rated PG for angst.

Special thanks to darthelwig for helping me finalize my ideas for this fic. Good on ya, D.

Written for the 'Holiday Eds' challenge at the Ed, Edd N Eddy Slash yahoo group. The link is on my profile page. Join if you're of age and love slashing the Eds! (And who doesn't, right? 'lol')

This was inspired by the Ed, Edd N Eddy Christmas special: Ed, Edd N Eddy's Jingle Jingle Jangle. Basically what my brain came up with because Double D is the only one whose Christmas traditions we don't get a glimpse of...

Dedicated to every single person reading this. Yes that means you. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy/Merry Whatever-Holiday-Strikes-Your-Fancy!

Anyway, enjoy. Peace, all.

What Tomorrow Wasn't

by Ghost Helwig

He baked the cookies himself. Chocolate chip, a tradition, set on the fancy white porcelain plate with the red and green mistletoe design circling the edge. Tall glass of low fat, 2 milk, cold to the touch, was placed beside the plate on a red Christmas coaster, the one he'd used every year since he was five.

He went to bed that night, as usual, precisely at nine-thirty. Not nine, or ten – that wasn't right, wasn't ritual. Had to be nine-thirty. And if he laid in bed for hours thinking and fretting and fighting off the 'bad feelings', that was okay, because he was there-

And anyway, the 'bad feelings'? They were ritual, too.

He woke up with his alarm, precisely at seven. No later, no earlier. Because that was how it was, always. He dressed in his usual clothes, made his bed, tucking corners, couldn't leave anything untucked, oh no, not now, not even now, not even at Christmas.

And downstairs he walked, the silence of the house grating. He turned the stereo on, carefully put in the CD of classical Christmas tunes he listened to every year, and he smiled as the familiar strains floated into his ears. Funny how music could chase away the loneliness, make it sound and feel like his house was full-

Enough ruminating. It was time to make breakfast.

Tea, a crumpet – heck, he'd take two, for it was Christmas. Munch, munch, swallow, use the napkin, watch the crumbs, drink tea after every other bite. Monotony, monotony, but so comforting, too.

Wash the dishes, dry, put away. And finally it was time for the part he so openly loved and so secretly hated-

It was time to open gifts.

He knelt beside his tree, slowly removing each package that he had wrapped oh-so-carefully, brilliant shades of red and green wrapping accented by gold or silver ribbons, perfectly curled, hanging just right, topped off with shining bright gold or silver bows. Those gifts labeled for his parents were placed in two separate piles off to the side, his own, somewhat smaller and less impressive array of gifts placed before him. The pile looked wrong without the single white envelope that usually had its own, special place among his gifts, but his parents must have been busy at their jobs this year – they had forgotten it. No matter. Disappointment was not an unfamiliar flavor in his mouth at this time of year.

Finally he withdrew from under the tree two obviously out of place presents, both shoddily wrapped, one done up in red paper littered with Santas and strangled by a bright green bow, the other haphazardly wrapped in leftover birthday paper, paper he actually recognized from his last birthday, only the 'Happy Birthday's' scattered in rainbow colors across the white and silver paper had been crossed out and covered over by untidy scrawled wishes of 'Merry Christmas Edd!'. Ever the cheapskate, was Eddy, but Double D knew he would save bits of this paper in his scrapbook – something about it struck him as sweet, and he wanted to keep that warm feeling it lit within him.

These two gifts he set aside, saving them for later – and it was with a heavy heart and a mouth tasting of acid that he turned to his pile of other presents. Where to start? Should he open his new dictionary first, or his binoculars? It was so hard to decide, when you knew what everything was...

What would he do, where would he begin, if his parents had been there? He thought a moment, then reached for the hitherto untouched stocking beside the tree that bore his name in silver glitter, each letter curved perfectly and just so in his own careful script. Eddward. Every year that glittering name was a punch to his gut, though he never stopped to figure out quite why – just waited until the pain had passed, oh yes, there it went, and he was free, now, again, for a while.

He pulled an orange from his stocking, cutting into it with his fingernail, juice welling up like blood from a wound. He licked it away. Slowly, methodically, he peeled and ate the orange, savoring its tangy sweetness as a balm, a way to ease the leftover taste of pain from his mouth. He loved sitting beside the Christmas tree, the fake tree that he decorated each year to spare the environment, watching the twinkling lights as he snacked on the fruits he placed in his own stocking every Christmas-

Which reminded him – he'd forgotten the lights. Quickly he moved to plug them in, smiling a little at the blinking rainbow lights that suddenly shot stray bands of color into his eyes. Was there anything more beautiful than that sight?

It took him an hour to open almost all of his gifts, carefully removing paper, ribbons, bows, pretending each gift was a surprise when in actuality he'd bought them for himself. Only Ed and Eddy's gifts were left.

He opened Ed's first, still careful, setting this paper aside just as he intended to do Eddy's, for everything given to him by his friends was precious. Inside the wrapping was a simple wooden picture frame, and the picture it held brought tears to his eyes.

Drawn by Ed, it was a remarkably good likeness of himself, with Ed and Eddy on either side of him, arms around him. Scrawled across the top in Ed's eternally messy handwriting were the words 'Freinds For Life'.

No misspelling had ever looked quite so beautiful to him before.

He was already placing the picture frame on his desk in his mind as he opened Eddy's present. He removed the lid of the box he'd uncovered, heart skipping a beat and eyes tearing again when he saw what lay nestled amid the white tissue paper.

A jawbreaker. Eddy had actually bought a jawbreaker and given it to him.

He reached a shaking finger to stroke the smooth surface of the mouthwatering candy, bumping a small card that he, in his surprised pleasure, hadn't noticed before. Lifting it, he smiled at Eddy's short, so-Eddy message.

Lighten up, Sockhead. Merry Christmas!

So sweet, his friends were. As he sat among his opened gifts and sucked on the jawbreaker, he glowed inside with that simple knowledge, the only true pleasure he'd yet received from this holiday.

It all faded as he prepared a lavish feast for that evening. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, gravy (he had to have gravy, for gravy reminded him of his precious Ed, and anyway it was tradition), stuffing, salad, corn, peas, homemade and canned cranberry sauce, olives, pumpkin pie, cherry tarts, and, last but certainly not least, homemade vanilla ice cream. All had to be cooked or readied or sliced, all had to be prepared, for it was more food than he could ever eat but it was tradition.

And besides which, there was always the chance they would come home in time for Christmas dinner. There was always the chance. They never had, but if they ever did, he wanted it to be the best Christmas dinner they'd ever eaten.

After all – maybe then they would come home for it more often.

So he cooked, and baked, a process that consumed most of his day. When he wasn't in the kitchen, he was bustling around his house, cleaning up the debris from his present-opening, restacking and restacking and restacking his parents' gifts, setting Ed's picture up in his room and labeling it neatly. He never sat down, or let himself relax – if he did, he knew what would happen.

He would want.

He would want to go visit Ed and Eddy, which had never been expressly forbidden by them or their parents (Eddy's mother even invited him to Christmas dinner every year, for he annually spent Thanksgiving with Eddy's family and she'd been subtle but clear when telling him that she knew of his little 'problem' with his parents; however, he declined, always) but which he had forbidden himself – Christmas was a time for families, and it wasn't Ed or Eddy's fault that they had families and he had... well... basically none. He would not impose upon their happiness, not this day of all days.

But he would want to.

And he would want to call his parents, even though the faded sticky note beside their number on the fridge reminded him that the number was only for use in an emergency. Surely being lonely at Christmas was not an emergency, much as he might wish it otherwise. If only they would call him – but there was little chance of that. If this year they had not even remembered to send him a Christmas card...

It was nearly time for dinner. He'd snacked on the chocolate chip cookies he'd left out for Santa the night before (the milk had been poured down the drain when he had his crumpet that morning – never could trust milk that had been sitting out, even in winter), but by now he was starving, his stomach rumbling from the pleasant smells that were filling his house. First, though, he had to set the table.

Perfect, perfectly white, starched tablecloth, lacy and covered in a pattern of icicles. Three of their best white china plates, crystal goblets and silverware made of real silver completing the set-up. Tall white candles, more mistletoe in the middle of the table, not that he would have anyone to kiss even though mistletoe was hung all over his house, but really, they were pretty, they were flowers, and that was all he needed them to be.

He lit the candles, one for each of them, himself and his absent parents. He brought out the food, dimmed the lights, and sat in his place, for a moment quietly contemplating the empty seats at the end of the table. If he squinted, he could imagine his father sitting at the head of the table, his nose pinched between his thumb and forefinger and his glasses slipping down his nose, glinting in the candlelight, his mother laughing under her breath in the chair beside him, long dark hair spilling over her shoulders and a smile on her face as she looked across the table at her only son.

A quick, indrawn breath and he lowered his head, biting back the taste of bile. Suddenly he was anything but hungry.

He folded his hands, bent his head. It was right to say grace at a time like this, but his mouth was so dry, his mind even more so. What could he say?

Finally he spoke, in a small, uncertain, kind of broken voice – for the first time that day, he was glad no one was there, because he would not have wished to be heard.

"I-I thank you, Lord, for this bounty, for the roof over my head, the clothes upon my back, and the j-joy within my h-heart. A-amen."

He sighed, softly, and began to pile unwanted food upon his plate. Would it really be better to have his parents fill those empty chairs, he wondered suddenly, or to have Ed and Eddy there? After all, at least he knew where he stood with his friends; they appreciated his company, never left him sticky notes rather than talk to him or forget to check in on the holidays...

He ate mechanically, not tasting all the delicious food he'd struggled all day to make, instead daydreaming about what it would be like if Ed and Eddy were there. Ed would be digging into the gravy with his hands, while Eddy scowled and yelled, and he himself begged Ed not to spill anything on the tablecloth...

When dinner was finished, the leftovers put away and the dishes washed and the table cleared, it was time to bathe and brush his teeth. That, too, was performed without much thought, and as he pulled on his sleeping clothes he pondered whether or not he could visit with his friends the next day. He suspected it would be alright – it was every other year, for the holiday was over. And what a relief that would be... A strenuous day, Christmas...

At nine thirty on the dot he turned off his bedroom light and crawled into bed, pulling the blankets up to his chin – it was so cold in his house, all the time. Eddy commented on it (as in, he complained about it) every time he came over, but what could he tell him? A heater could not make up for the void left by his parents' absence...

But tomorrow would be another day, a better day. He and his friends would compare gifts, and build a snow fort that Ed would subsequently shatter, and get creamed with snowballs by Kevin – he held to those thoughts as a mental blanket, needing their warmth more than anything else...

Well, not anything.

He wondered, sometimes, alright often, what Christmas was like in his friends' homes. Was Sarah nice to Ed on this holiday, at least? Did Eddy tear into his gifts, just like he saw him do on his birthday? Did they sing carols? (He knew Ed did, actually – sometimes, like today while he was cooking, he could hear Ed's joyous voice carrying all the way up the cul-de-sac and into his kitchen.) Were they surrounded by love, unconditional, expressed – warm?

Better not to think about it, he supposed.

So he curled up, around himself, blinking back tears and holding his sides. This was the part of his Christmas traditions he truly hated – in about five minutes, he knew he would be gasping into his drawn up knees as he sobbed, wishing he was someone else, or somewhere else, somewhere he was wanted and warm. It happened every year, like clockwork, a cycle, endless.

Because he knew in his heart his parents would never magically come around more, would never take an interest, would never buy the gifts and hang the decorations and cook the food and sing the songs. It was him, and would be him, always. No amount of gifts, no matter how painstakingly chosen and equally painstakingly wrapped, or slaved-over food, no matter how delicious or how long and hard it had been to make, would ever be enough to bring them home.

But tomorrow would be better, Double D told himself as the sobs began. Tomorrow had every chance to be better.

Because tomorrow... wasn't Christmas.