[Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy in any shape or form. I do not intend to make money off this material. Thank you.]

Rocky Roads

By Oriens Rex

Chapter One: The Deal

Double D stood in front of the full-length, frameless mirror that adorned his closet door. Studying his reflection critically, he pondered his clothing; a white button down shirt, a pair of khaki slacks, a pair of highly polished dress shoes, and his favorite black beanie. He wasn't sure about the beanie. It wasn't as if he needed it anymore as he no longer suffered his father's clumsy attempts at barbering. After pulling the beanie off his head, he ran his fingers through the shaggy mess of dirty blond hair that grew out in the two months since his father relented. Wearing the beanie was more habit now than necessity.

A moment of thought later, Double D tugged the beanie back on. Why mess with a look that worked for him? He glanced over his reflection one more time and took in the well-dressed, scrawny fourteen year-old boy in the mirror. He hadn't changed much in the year and a half since him and his best friends, Ed and Eddy, trekked across the county to find Eddy's brother in a misguided attempt to find sanctuary from a horde of angry neighborhood children. He'd gotten taller, only an inch or two, but aside from that and his hair, he was the same nervous, overly formal boy everyone knew him to be.

Satisfied with his outfit, Double D turned away from the mirror and picked up a navy blue blazer lying on his bed. He pulled it on and left his room. A quick jaunt down the stairs and he was at the front door.

"I'm going now," Double D called out. The lack of response told him his parents were gone. He shrugged and opened the door.

Walking out into the dying light of the crisp autumn evening, Double D looked across the cul-de-sac and spotted his two best friends walking toward him. Ed and Eddy were nearly halfway across the road and Double D could already tell they weren't nearly as nicely dressed as he was.

Ed looked like he always did, disheveled and poorly bathed. His buzzed red hair was greasy and uncombed. The large green jacket he wore was stained and quite threadbare in places. He even had a large black smudge on his left cheek.

Eddy was much cleaner and his clothing was in better condition. His narcissism wouldn't allow him to leave the house looking anything but his best. Unfortunately, Eddy's best was a decade or two out of style. Eddy's hair was slicked back with something akin to axle grease and his wide collared, rhinestone covered shirt was open to reveal his bare chest and a huge gaudy pendant with a cash symbol on it. In the last few months, Eddy finally hit his growth spurt and now stood only six inches shorter than Double D.

As they approached Double D, he could hear them arguing over something but he couldn't quite make it out. It wasn't until they were nearly in his yard that he understood the squabble.

"Come on," Eddy demanded, "You gotta show me!"

"Nuh-uh," Ed countered, shaking his head wildly, "Not until the party."

"What are you two arguing about?" asked Double D.

Eddy piped up immediately, "Ed's not tellin' me what he got Nazz!"

"Oh?" Double D looked at his tallest friend, "Why not, Ed?"

"It's a surprise!" Ed announced gleefully, a huge grin splitting his face.

"Come on, Eddy, let him have his secret."

"Give it! Let me see," yelled Eddy, finally losing his patience and jumping on Ed. Ed began giggling madly as Eddy frisked him for the gift. This continued for a few minutes with Double D looking on in amusement from a safe distance.

"Ah ha!" declared Eddy. He pulled a colorful paper bag decorated with a curled ribbon from the inside of Ed's jacket. Eddy jumped down from Ed and tried to peer inside the bag. Before he could, Ed grabbed one side and attempted to reclaim his gift for Nazz. Thus began a tug o' war.

Both boys tugged and pulled trying to overpower the other and take the prize. Ed's superior strength gave him the advantage but Eddy wouldn't give up. Soon the inevitable happened, which wasn't much of a surprise to Double D. The bag ripped sending what looked like a slightly smaller brown paper bag to the ground where it exploded.

Filthy, disgusting goo and pieces of what might have been food at some point splattered everywhere. The contents of the bag now covered Ed and Eddy, who stood there frozen for a moment. Lucky for Double D, he stood far enough away to avoid contact with any of the moldering filth.

"My God, Ed!" cried Double D, "What was in that bag?"

Ed let out a pitiful moan and cried mournfully, "M-my favorite lunch!"

Eddy was still in complete shock. His entire form covered in a layer of reeking sludge. Suddenly, Eddy looked eyes with Ed and they were off. Eddy chased Ed around the cul-de-sac, screaming obstinacies and threats.

Double D rolled his eyes and called out to his friends, "You two should go get changed. I'll meet you at the party."

Ed spun around laughing madly and grabbed Eddy. He tucked the struggling boy under his right arm and gave Double D a sloppy, left-handed salute. "Aye, aye, Captain Smarty-Pants!" shouted Ed, jovially. He turned on his heel and started marching towards Eddy's house.

Double D turned with a laugh and started walking down the street. Instead of walking towards Nazz's house next to his own, he headed toward the forest that neighbored the cul-de-sac. The quickest route to the community center Double D knew of was through the forest.

This year Nazz convinced her parents to hold her party at the local community center. They would have access to the swimming pool, a full gymnasium, and the dance hall. Double D expected it to be quite the party. He just hoped he could get through it without making a fool of himself. He and his friends did have a history of self-mortification, after all.

Reaching into his blazer pocket, Double D fingered the small, wrapped package inside. Unlike Ed's gift, his wouldn't explode and shower its victims in moldering debris. No, he picked this gift out carefully and knew Nazz would love it. It wasn't cheap either. He had to save up nearly two months allowance and scam money to pay for it, not an easy task with Eddy around.

Double D hoped his gift would impress Nazz. Truth be told, he had always had a crush on the popular young woman. She was smart, funny, and nice; all the things he wanted in a girlfriend. Double D knew the chances of her ditching Kevin to be with him were slim to none, but he could always hope. In any event, it wouldn't hurt to endear himself to her with a thoughtful gift.

Soon Double D found himself surrounded on all sides by large coniferous and deciduous trees. The narrow dirt trail he followed cut a path through dense underbrush where unseen woodland creatures scurried about. The daylight was all but faded now and Double D checked his watch. If he avoided any distractions or hold-ups he should be able to make the party with plenty of time to spare.

Suddenly, Double D felt someone wrap their arms around his midriff pinning his arms to his sides and lifting him up. The frightened boy yelped and began struggling to break his capture's grip. That's when he heard a sound that made his blood run cold and his heart pound in his chest. Giggling; not Ed's good-natured guffaw or Nazz's bashful chuckle but the loud and obnoxious cackle of his and his friend's personal tormentors, the Kanker Sisters.

Whichever of the Kanker Sisters that held him; he believed it to be May but couldn't say for sure, dragged him off the trail and a few dozen yards to a hidden clearing where Lee and Marie Kanker waited. Lee stood with her hands on her hips, her curly red hair hiding the evil glint in her eyes. Marie stood next to her sister with a wicked grin on her face. She ran a hand through her short, blue-dyed hair making kissing motions with her lips.

"Hey there, hot-stuff," called Marie, fluttering her eyelashes.

"Where are the other two, May?" demanded Lee impatiently. She fixed the area above Double D's shoulder with a withering glare.

"Not there, Lee. Must be going it alone, t'night," Lee dropped Double D to the ground. He hit the hard earth with a sharp yelp.

"Careful, stupid!" yelled Marie, "You'll damage the goods!"

Looking up, Double D confirmed what he already knew. May was the one that seized him on the trail. She gave her long blond hair a flip before retorting, "Stick it in yer ear, Marie!"

"Both of you shut it!" Lee demanded forcefully, "We gotta man to entertain, girls."

"N-now, girls," Double D pleaded, standing up and taking a few steps in reverse, "I-I'm on a schedule tonight. Perhaps we c-could postpone this interlude for another t-time." Double D backed into May who draped her arms over his shoulders and sighed into his ear.

"Nothin' doin', stud," quipped Lee, "You can't talk your way outta this one."

May began placing small pecks at the base of his neck and Double D jumped out of her grasp in fright. She let him go but he couldn't get far and he knew it. They'd be on him in seconds if he tried to run. His only hope was to appeal to their better nature, laughable as the idea was, or bribe them, a more reasonable aspect.

The girls began advancing on him menacingly. Double D felt his instincts pushing him to run for it despite the futility. It took everything Double D had to stay his ground. He needed to show them he wasn't as afraid of them as he really was.

"M-maybe a b-bribe is in order," the words fell out of his mouth in a rush, "I c-could give you money or offer you a s-service."

Lee and May paused to consider Double D's offer. On the other hand, Marie only giggled, continuing forward unperturbed.

Double D laughed nervously, "M-Marie, d-did you hear me?"

"I heard ya loud 'n' clear," Marie fixed Double D with a lusty gaze and wicked smile, "The only service I want from you I'm gonna take."

"You go, girl!" cheered Lee, appreciatively, followed by a sharp whistle from May.

Any further pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears as Marie further encroached on Double D. Slowly, Double D found himself maneuvered into a tightly packed grove of trees that offered little chance of escape. Boy was Marie good. Double D hadn't noticed the tactic until it was too late and now she had him.

Double D backed into a large oak tree bordered by two large, thorn-laden bushes. A gurgling stream lay somewhere in the darkness just beyond them. He had nowhere to go and he began trembling. As Marie bore down on him, she pulled a stick of blue lipstick from her jean pocket and applied it to her lips. How did she make such an innocent activity seem so threatening?

Closing his eyes, Double D turned his head down and away from the approaching girl. He felt her press her hands to his chest and could feel the heat of her body as she stepped in close to him. A shiver ran down his spine when he felt her breath on his lips. Any second now, she'd start smothering him with unwanted kisses, marking him with that terrible blue lipstick.

The kisses never came. Curious, Double D chanced a look at his antagonist. She was still standing close to him, dangerously close, but her attention was elsewhere. In her hand was a small, neatly wrapped gift box, a very familiar one at that. She turned it over in her hands taking in the colorful gift-wrap.

Oh no, it was his gift for Nazz! She must have found it when she pressed herself to him. This was bad.

"What's this?" asked the blue haired girl, "Did you get your girl a little present?"

Lee and May came up behind their sister as she began ripping off the wrapping. They stared over her shoulder at the present, a tinge of jealousy on their faces.

"No!" cried Double D. He made a desperate grab for the gift.

Marie looked up at him with a smirk easily avoiding his grasp. "Then, who's it for, lover-boy?"

"I bet it's for Blondie," declared Lee with a leer toward her sister.

"You think he got it for me?" asked May, a bit slow.

"No, you idiot!" yelled Lee, giving her sister a smack on the back of her head, "That Nazz-girl! You know the pretty one." She said the word "pretty" as though it were the farthest thing from the truth.

Marie finished tearing the wrapper apart and found a blue velvet case underneath. Printed in golden calligraphy were the words, "Happy Birthday Nazz." She opened the case and found a small, gleaming bronze eagle, its wings spread wide, on a golden chain.

"Wow," whispered Marie. She glanced up at Double D giving him a look he couldn't place, something between disbelief and amazement maybe. Double D watched anxiously as Marie pulled it out of the box and held it up. With her other hand, she pulled a small flashlight out of her pocket and clicked it on. Light illuminated the pendant that dangled from her hand.

The girls contemplated the necklace for a moment with Double D looking on in terror. The Kanker Sisters seemed captivated by the piece of jewelry but that could end at any moment and then they would deliver their wrath on him for the affront of giving another girl a gift.

Lee was the first to break the silence "Looks gaudy to me."

"I like it," declared May, "I want it!" She began grabbing for it.

"Back off!" Double D watched as May and Marie began fighting over the pendant. Marie held it high overhead and May reached for it climbing up her sister in the attempt. With a mighty shove, Marie dislodged her sister and pushed her to the ground. "I said, 'Back off!'" yelled Marie.

"So, honey-bear," Marie stepped close to him again, holding Nazz's gift so he could see it and her face clearly, "What you gonna do to get your little gift back?"

"D-do?" Double D's voiced trembled with fear, but hope blossomed in his chest at the same time. She was offering him a chance to get the gift back.

"Yeah, do," she said, running a finger down his chest.

"W-what do you w-want?" Double D asked, fearful of the answer but hopeful at the same time.

"Hmm," Marie pursed her lip and stroked her chin in mock contemplation. She turned to her sisters and asked, "What do you think, girls? What should I make him do?"

"Clean the trailer!" called Lee.

"Do our homework for a year!" yelled May.

"No, nothin' so… domestic," Marie said softly, almost whispering. Her eyes locked with his, half-lidded and fluttering. Double D swallowed hard. That look meant trouble. She was getting ideas; ideas Double D wouldn't like. "How 'bout…" she whispered so only he could hear, "a kiss."

"A k-kiss?" Double D croaked.

"Yeah," Marie smiled innocently, "a kiss."

"I-I-I," stammered Double D, words failing him.

Marie lowered the necklace toward her pocket, "Well, if you don't wanna…"

"No!" cried Double D a little too loudly, "I… I'll do it."

"You will?" she looked genuinely surprised. In fact, Double D was too. He'd never have agreed to this in the past.

"Yeah," Double D said mustering his courage. He sounded more confident than he really was. "You promise that you'll give me back the necklace and the case if I kiss you?"

"Yeah, sure," Marie nodded casually, "But you gotta make it good."

"I-it's a deal then?" Double D held out his hand and she shook it.

"Deal," she said with finality, "Now pucker up, big boy."

Marie leaned in, her lips puckered and a light blush on her cheeks. Double D thought she would be somewhat cute if she weren't so terrifying. Double D leaned in as well. He could feel her breath on his lips; it smelled minty. He quickly darted in a planted a peck on her lips then pulled away.

The annoyed look on Marie's face told him she wasn't happy. "No, I said you had to make it good," Marie deadpanned, "Come 'ere." She grabbed him by his collar with both hands and pulled him to her again. Her lips pressed against his. Double D felt his cheeks light ablaze. This was his first kiss. At least the first one he had agreed to. He decided it wasn't so bad. Marie, much to his surprise, had very soft lips. Even with the pressure she was applying Double D wasn't at all uncomfortable beyond the standard embarrassment. Hoots and hollers floated over from Lee and May only making his cheeks redden further.

Before long, Marie loosened her grip on his collar and pulled away a bit reluctantly. Double D noticed a dreamy look on her face and she looked flush. She smiled at him. Marie stood there for a moment, the shadows of the nighttime forest giving her face an ethereal look. Meanwhile, Lee and May continued to shout their approval.

Double D cleared his throat hoping to spur some kind of action on the girl's part. Marie shook herself out of her trance. Her dreamy little smile shifted into a wicked grin.

"A deal's a deal, I guess," Marie said with resignation, holding Nazz's necklace out for him. Double D smiled with relief and reached for it. Just as his hand brushed the golden chain, Marie yanked it up and out of his grasp. She tossed it high over his shoulder on an arc that would send it over the thorn bushes and into the creek beyond.

"No!" cried Double D, leaping with all his might. He dove toward the necklace as it sailed over the bush, his arms outstretched, grasping wildly for the chain, the pendant, anything. The necklace brushed his fingertips but he couldn't reach it. It sailed over the bush and he heard the plop of it landing in the water. Then Double D noticed where he was going to land. He flattened the bush with his form, the thorns biting into his skin and tearing at his clothing. Tears stung his eyes.

Laughter rose behind him as all three girls took amusement at his pain. Double D painfully pulled himself out of the bush with some difficulty. After he cleared the thorns, Double D spun around to face the harpies. May rolled on the ground laughing too hard to breathe properly. Lee was in a similar condition though still standing. Marie doubled over in laughter clutching her stomach.

Double D gritted his teeth and started past the hysterical girls. He only got a few feet before a hand gripped his wrist.

"Where… where you think… you're goin'?" asked Marie between fits of laughter, "We're not done yet."

Double D wrenched his arm from the blue-haired girl's grasp. He fixed her with a vicious glare and said his voice icy cool and dripping with venom, "I'm going home."

"No you're not," Lee said forcefully from behind Marie.

"Yeah, we ain't done playin' with you yet," Marie added.

"Well, I most certainly am!" Double D yelled, his temper getting the better of his reason, "Why I thought you of all people would abide by our deal is beyond me!"

"It serves you right for cheatin' on your girlfriend," Marie yelled back.

Double D screamed in frustration, "And you're not my girlfriend! Why would I have a relationship with someone that ritualistically hunts me down only to torment my friends and me? How could I feel anything but abhorrence for someone like you? You're a despicable person that relishes in the torture of others and cause misfortune to those around you! You and your sisters are demented and should enquire for psychiatric attention at the earliest possible convenience!" Double D took a deep breath and added hatefully, "On top of that, you're not even very pretty!"

Suddenly, a sharp pain blossomed in Double D's face as he hit the ground roughly with his backside. He sat stunned on the ground for a moment before he realized Marie had punched him. Her fists trembled at her side now but a moment ago, she used one of them to send him to the ground. Double D pressed his hand to his nose, where most of the pain originated, and pulled it away. His nose wasn't broken but it was bleeding profusely. He had to admit the girl had one hell of a right hook.

Double D looked up at Marie's face and, to his amazement; he saw tears. Marie Kanker was crying. This was a definite first for Double D. He'd seen her take punches from her sisters and worse without so much as a whimper but now tears flowed unimpeded down her face.

Without a single word, Marie spun on her heel and stalked away into the forest. Her sisters watched in stunned silence as she passed them. No one moved until she was out of the clearing and they no longer heard her trudging through the underbrush.

May was the first to react. She stood from where she'd fallen laughing and approached Double D. She gave him a terrifying snarl before kicking dirt at him. Double D shielded his eyes from the dust. When he looked again, May was halfway across the clearing following Marie. Lee, unlike her sister, strolled leisurely up to Double D and looked with a passive expression through her curly bangs.

"Bastard," she said with the solemnity of a judge handing down a sentence. Lee gazed at him a moment more before turning calmly and following her sisters.

Double D, now alone in the clearing, glanced down, guilt welling up in him. He shouldn't have been so mean. That was not like him at all to lose his temper like that. He sighed and stood. Looking down he could tell he was a mess. The thorn bush did a number on his clothing. They were ripped and stained in several places and blood dripped freely from his face onto his shirt. How had the night turned out like this?

Double D took a few steps toward where he knew the path to be and heard something crunch under his shoe. Looking down, Double D found the source of the noise. The velvet case for Nazz's gift lay with its hinge broken under his foot. He bent down and picked up the deformed box, slipping it into his blazer pocket.

With a sigh, Double D began his long, slow trudge back home. There was no point in trying to make it to Nazz's party. If he went straight there, he'd look like a fool, dress in tattered clothing and covered in blood. If he went home and changed first, he could still make the party but he no longer had a gift for Nazz. No, his only option was to head home, get cleaned up, and go to bed. Maybe everything would look better in the morning.

After a while, Double D reached the front door to his house. He pulled the key from his pocket and unlocked the door before gingerly opening it. He listened for a moment but heard nothing. His parents obviously weren't home yet. He closed the door behind him and, shoes in hand, walked to his room.

After a quick shower and changing into a pair of flannel pajamas, Double D collapsed onto his bed. He lay there for a while thinking. His thoughts wandered from his lost gift, to Marie, and to the words he yelled at Marie. They weren't all true, he thought, she wasn't really ugly or anything. If they had met under different circumstance, maybe he would have returned her affection, maybe not. The last thoughts Double D had that night were of his friends and what they would think if they knew he had willingly given his first kiss to Marie Kanker; even if it was only to hold up his end of a bargain.