I love writing random one-shots, and to Ed, Edd, n' Eddy of all things! I came up with this idea lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. My little brother gets mad when I make things dramatic but I couldn't help it! It just worked out so well…

What a Difference

It was the end of his fourteenth summer, exactly 5 o'clock, and two years of being chased by her should have been enough time to make him a bit wiser in the ways of escaping. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't. Eddward was considered a genius, the smartest kid in the entire town of Peach Creek. But that pretty much added up to nothing when it came to a certain girl named Marie Kanker.

The game of cat and mouse had led him into the town woods. He took a quick glance over his shoulder and saw that she was easily gaining on him. He silently cursed his lackluster sportsmanship and could almost feel the heat of her hands as they reached for him.

It was at that moment he had enough and he turned to face her. Marie stopped as well but her arms were still outstretched as if she was going to embrace him. They both stood frozen, looking at one another.

"Good Lord, woman!" Edd exclaimed, almost over dramatically. He couldn't help it; he was at the very edge. Yet something about his tone of voice surprised Marie, and her arms dropped to her sides. "Haven't you learned by now how to treat a man properly?"

Marie backed off a bit; an almost inquisitive look took her face.

"What's that mean?" she asked bitterly, slamming her hands into her pockets. She looked away from the object of her affection and instead focused on the creek that ran somewhere beyond the trees. She couldn't see it but she could listen to it.

"What do I mean?" Edd asked this question with a hint of exasperation, like he couldn't believe she didn't immediately understand. "Does your mother treat your father in such an abusing manner?" he motioned towards his own body, as if there was something she needed to see. Of course there wasn't but it didn't make a difference, he was trying to prove a point.

"How the hell should I know?" Though it was an answer, it wasn't directed at Edd. Marie bit her bottom lip and found that a lovely brown leaf was much more fun than where this conversation was going.

It was Edd's turn to ask of her meaning. He didn't known why he felt compelled to ask, but he had too.

"My Dad spilt a long time ago," she explained bluntly, bending down to pick up the leaf her foot had been playing with. But as soon as she put her fingers around it, it crumpled to pieces in her hand.

"Wait, what?" Edd asked to make sure he had heard her right. He did remember his first encounter with Marie and her sisters, mentioning their "dads", but at the time he didn't really think anything of it. Now that he was a bit older it hit him a lot harder than before. A feeling of guilt and pity boiled in the pit of his stomach.

"He left." Marie repeated, this time with less blunt and a bit more shame. "I never knew Lee's Dad, and May's lived with us for a little while," she looked up towards the tops of the trees, making out hints of summer blue sky. "He was around when we first moved here but Mom kicked him out. Our Mom's in between boyfriends right now." Marie clicked her tongue with the slightest hint of disapproval. "Well, that's what she calls it anyway," she looked over at Edd briefly and shrugged her shoulders coolly. There was nothing she could do about it.

"Marie, I'm very…" He felt bad for bringing this upon her. While he wanted Marie and her sisters to stop chasing after him desperately, he had no intention of hurting Marie's feelings by bringing up an absentee father.

"Don't feel sorry for me, Double D," she cut him off, her eyes narrowed like daggers and Edd held up his hands as if he was afraid she might hit him. "I don't wanna be pitied, I'm sick of it," she let out a shaky breath and started walking towards the creek, leaving him behind.

Edd glanced around for a moment and knew this would be the perfect chance to get back to his friends. But there was something, maybe the pity Marie didn't want, that made him follow her. He just couldn't leave someone alone when they weren't okay, it went against his nature.

After stumbling over a few protruding plant roots, he found her sitting against a fallen tree trunk. Reaching into the dirt in front of her she picked up a rock and chucked it into the water as far as she could. It sank immediately and she repeated the action a few more times before growing bored and deciding to just watch the water rush by.

Edd said nothing as he took a seat beside her, looking out towards the flowing water as she did. They sat next to one another in silence for what felt like eternity before Marie finally spoke up.

"So I guess the answer is no," Marie told him as she brought her legs into her chest. She wrapped her arms around them and rested her forehead above the gap between her knees. Edd looked at her with an emotion that was somewhere near shock. Never before had he seen Marie, tough and scary Marie Kanker, look so vulnerable.

It took him a moment to process what she had said to him.

"No?" he questioned, rubbing the back of his head, careful not to push his hat off.

"I guess I don't know how to treat boys or whatever," she waved her hand about to emphasize her point but refused to look up from knees. "I mean, my Mom gave me and my sisters tips and stuff, but hell, look how well it worked out for her." She finally peered up and glared out at nothing. Pushing away the thought to correct her grammar, Edd imagined if Marie was picturing her mother.

"So then, why do you chase after me like that?" he asked curiously. He assumed, no, he knew that it was because she had a crush on him. But it seemed a little bit extreme, well very extreme. Then again the Kankers were extreme girls.

"You mean why do I smother you?" she corrected with the slightest of smiles. "Probably because when Lee was real little our Mom told her that a man always responds best to forceful woman," she rolled her eyes and glanced over at Edd who was watching her carefully, almost studying her. "Lee does it because my Mom told her, I do it because Lee does it, and May does it because Lee and I do it," she explained as she drew a circle in the dirt with the tip of her finger. "Let's call it a Mother-Sister Cycle."

Edd didn't respond, just dumbly nodded his head. He took a quick glance down at something Marie didn't catch before reaching over for a small branch that was sticking out of the fallen trunk and pulling it off with a bit of force. Sucking in a big breath he grabbed for Marie's hand and placed the broken-off twig inside it.

"You shouldn't get your hands dirty," he explained, "and you can use it like a pencil." Edd held on to her hand for just one fleeting second before he dropped it and crossed his arms over his chest, looking away. Marie felt a warmth rise to hers cheeks before she tried to play it cool, and casually blew her bangs out of her eyes.

"Thanks," she hated that her voice broke, reveling her nervousness, "I guess," she placed the stick down next to her.

"It was no problem," he shrugged slightly, keeping his eyes straight ahead on the water.

"I also do it," she started, picking up the old conversation, "because you belong to me," she told him straightly with a cheshire smile. Edd nearly jumped at the sudden forwardness and began inching away but stopped when Marie laughed. It wasn't chilling or sinister, just a regular laugh that made him stay where he was. "But ya know that's how I think, right?" she smirked, "You are the smartest boy, like, ever."

It was Edd's turn to blush and his cheeks stained a bright red. He chuckled low in his throat and shook his head, "No, not ever."

"Well, I think so," she stuck her tongue out at him defiantly then giggled at his increasing blush. She was rather enjoying speaking to Edd without him wanting to run away from her as fast as he could. Though she still felt an urge to attack him right there, she fought against it easily.

Edd, meanwhile, shook his head in an attempt to drain his blush when something Marie had told him earlier came crashing to the forefront of his mind. Though, now that Marie was smiling and behaving fairly pleasantly, he wasn't sure if he should bring it up or let it fade back into his thoughts like it had before. She had mentioned being pitied and for one of the first times in his life, he cursed his curiosity.

"Marie, if you would allow, may I ask you a question?" he nervously tightened his hands into fists, hoping that if he got his answer she wouldn't explode with anger.

"Ah, yeah sure Double D, shoot," she nodded to reaffirm she was okay with it.

"Before," he took a deep breath in and watched her face carefully for a reaction. "You mentioned you were tired of being pitied," still there was nothing. She just stared at him, waiting for him to finish. "If you would be so kind to elaborate," he stumbled over his words before finally finishing with a soft, "please?"

Marie let out a heavy sigh and rested her head back on the rough bark of the tree. She felt slightly annoyed that there weren't any clouds to watch today and she didn't know if she wanted to blow Edd's question off or just get her answer out and in the air. She knew that he wasn't going to push her for an answer, and while he was tolerating her for some reason, she knew he still feared her a bit.

She wanted to change that, if only just a little.

"How can I not be pitied?" she asked of him in return. She held up her fist high into the air and began to make a list. "One, I'm poor," she held up her pointer finger, "two, I live in a trailer," her middle finger soon followed. "Three, my mother's a slut," her ring finger extended and before she could go on, Edd reached for her hand quickly and brought it back towards the ground.

"You shouldn't say those things," he told her with quiet forcefulness. "She is your mother, after all," he kept her hand pinned to the grass before noticing how long he had been holding it, and let go with a flush of color from his face.

"How would you know?" her voice was bitter and sharp as she drew her released hand to her chest. She knew lots of things about her Double D. She knew who his friends were, what he did in his spare time and that he liked school. She just assumed, being the straight-lace that he was, that his home life was just as picture perfect as she imagined it to be.

"I know how," Edd stopped, trying to find the right words, "bothersome one's parents can be."

"Bothersome?" Marie let out a hard laugh, "yeah, right." She turned her body around and faced Edd fully, waiting to here more about how he could possibly understand how horrible her home life was.

"Is your mother," Edd drifted off and his shoulders slumped as if he was suddenly feeling rather down, "home often?"

"Yeah, maybe too often," Marie didn't notice his fallen posture; instead she simply scoffed at his question. "She's also in between jobs."

"I see," was the only thing Edd wanted to say. He looked off to his side and began tearing apart the grass, picking away at each blade. "In a way, I consider you lucky."

"What?" Marie wondered with a bit of awe. Edd didn't know her mother, didn't know what he was saying. But before she could fight him and tell him off, he started speaking to her again, and something in his voice made her shut up and listen.

"I love my mother and father very dearly, you understand," it wasn't really a question but Marie nodded her head anyway. "But I never see them," he frowned, "at all." He was exaggerating a bit, as most kids do, but to him that's what it felt like. "At first I enjoyed their sticky-note messages, I told myself they left them because they cared and wanted me to be okay when they weren't around," he fiddled with the rim of his stocking cap before pulling it over his eyes. "Then I wondered why they had all the time in the world to write me messages but never actually told me anything to my face."

Nothing was coming to Marie as she searched her brain for comforting words. Her heart felt tight and sad. It was easy, she realized, to be mean and direct, but being a shoulder to lean on was much tougher. Again, she blamed her mother, remembering advice that the only person you need to look out for is yourself. She shook that idea away. She really cared for Edd and she wasn't going to let anything stop her, not even herself.

"They're working real hard at their jobs…so you can have all the stuff ya need," Marie frowned deeply, upset that those words were the best she could come up with. If this were a romantic movie, like the ones May watched all the time, she could have said the perfect thing to make him cheer up. He'd realize that she'd always had the best intention, and they fall helplessly in love with each other. Of course, this was reality, and instead his shoulders just slumped farther down in depression.

"I know," he agreed with a lack of emotion in his voice. Marie sighed roughly, realizing that of course he knew. She was sure Edd had gone through every logical reason in the world why his Mom and Dad were just, not there.

"I'm real sorry Double D," Marie moved closer, not in the way she would if she were going to hug him, just too simply bring him some ease, if such a thing was possible from her. "I wish I was better at finding the right words and stuff…" she shrugged her shoulders even though he wasn't looking her way. "And I'm sorry for saying you didn't know anything," she didn't say it but in a way she considered Edd worse off than she was. Edd was an only child, and even though she constantly fought with her sisters, she still had them by her side.

Edd finally pulled the cap away from his eyes and looked over at Marie with a sad smile. She didn't exactly make him feel better but it was nice that she actually cared to listen. Whenever Edd tried talking with his friends, Ed just didn't understand and Eddy, while he showed some sympathy time to time, didn't like to think about things that upset him. He felt a little too shy to thank Marie for her kindness and instead just increased the size of his grin.

"I think," he started, leaning back on his hands, "that's kind of why I wanna grow up so fast."

"Why?" Marie wondered, moving her legs into a pretzel-like position. She rubbed at her arms as if she was cold, but it was more of the feeling of being on edge. Never emotionally, had she been this close to Edd, let alone anyone who wasn't in her immediate family.

"So I won't have to be that alone anymore."

The answer was simple, and if Marie wasn't trying so hard to behave herself she would have hugged Double D as tight as she possible could. Instead, she put her hand on his and smiled, and her heart beat doubled when he smiled back.

"What do you wanna be when you grow up, Double D?" she asked with interest. Hoping that getting off the topic of their parents would be the best thing for the both of them.

"An explorer," Edd told her quite proudly, "one who searches the world and discovers new things and new places…and maybe invent some incredibly useful creations on the side," he laughed like the idea was a private, personal joke. With his mood suddenly brightened he gave her a real grin, "And what of you Marie? What do you wish to be when you grow older?"

Marie bit her lip and scratched her chin with her free hand, the other still rested on Edd's. Since he wasn't pulling away or complaining, she planned on keeping it there. She smiled to herself when he turned his hand around to cup hers.

"Probably a mechanic…or a rock star," her eyes widened when a new idea formed in her head, "a rock star mechanic! That would be bitchin'," when she finished her thought she let out an excited laugh. Edd laughed along with her at her enthusiasm and nodded his head. He didn't even mind that she used foul language; it was that she seemed just as generally excited about the future as he did. Probably, for the both of them, it was the idea that things had to get better.

He had taken a casual glance down when he finally noticed how long Marie had been holding on to his hand. He felt a lump form in his throat. It wasn't the type of feeling he usually got when she forced herself on him, that fear that ran through his body and made all his hairs stand on end. Actually, her warm hand on his was quite nice. At first, he didn't know what to think of that. Wasn't it just moments ago he was trying to get away from her?


All of a sudden…

He wasn't sure whose fault these feelings were. Was it his for wanting to hear Marie talk or was it hers for spilling out her heart. Marie's face fell as she watched Edd stare at their cupped hands as if there was going to be some hidden meaning behind it. She chewed on her bottom lip anxiously as she waited for him to speak. This was unlike her. Suddenly things between the two of them were different, she could feel it.

It made her a little scared.

Gently she pulled her hand away from his and put her arms behind her back. No, maybe scared wasn't the right word. All this time of chasing after Edd was not because she wanted him to fear her, though that feeling was fun too, she wanted him to like her in return.

Edd finally looked up from the spot where their hands had been and into her eyes, finding himself liking the way her signature blue eye-shadow made her eyes sparkle. Had he ever noticed that before? Edd could feel his cheeks grow warm and she sheepishly shrugged her shoulders, just as confused. As she stared back she saw that Edd's eyes had lost some of their childhood wideness and that the look he was giving her, nervous as it was, made him look more mature. She had crushes on lots of boys before, but this was the first time any of them might of have liked her back. She still wasn't sure.

"Marie?" Edd started, feeling his heart slam in his chest as he moved closer towards her. Something was telling him he had to do this, he had to be sure.

"Yeah, Double D?" Marie wondered if she should have batted her eyelashes and tried to seem prettier, more like a girl. She had always found it easy to take charge before, to pounce on Edd like he was her prey, but she suddenly had grown demure and she didn't understand why.

"I believe I might do something I may regret," he told her honestly, moving in ever closer. His thoughts were running wild in his head. He was going to kiss Marie Kanker, no he wanted to kiss her. Technically she had kissed him tons and tons of times before but he had never once returned it. This time he would be brave, he wouldn't faint, and he'd put his lips on hers with everything he had.

"I don't think so," she disagreed and closed her eyes, waiting. She wondered how long he would take but made a promise with herself not to open until she felt him pull away. All the while Edd searched her face one time over before closing his own eyes and softly, but firmly, placing his lips over hers.

The feeling was much different then all the other times their lips had touched, before it had felt sloppy, messy, and impersonal. But now it felt warm and intimate, like the rest of the world faded off into the background while their lips met. Marie kissed back very softly and both their hearts ran quick until they pulled away. They looked at each other in silence before Marie let out a girlish giggle.

"It's fun when the boy does it first," she cheered, throwing caution to the wind and encircling her arms around Edd's neck, knocking him into the ground. He squirmed a little beneath her for a moment before giving up and hugging her back.

"I'm glad you think so," he told her with strained breath, a little weak to hold her weight, "I hope it was to your liking. To be fair it was my first time."

"Are you kiddin' Oven Mitt?" she sat up, straddling his stomach. "You're like a freakin' professional!" She laughed again and was too delighted to notice Edd sneak another quick kiss when she wasn't ready for it. She covered her mouth with her fingers and stared at the sock-headed boy awe-struck.

"Just a taste of your own medicine," he grinned, "it seemed like the proper thing to do."

Marie wanted to kiss him again, or tickle him, or squeeze him as hard and as long as she could, but all her ideas were flushed away when she heard a familiar voice call her name from inside the woods.

"Yo, Marie! Where the heck are ya?" Lee called with annoyance, "it's almost time for dinner and Uncle Chuck's coming so get your ass over here!"

"Yeah Marie," May chimed after, almost puppet-like, "we gotta go!"

"Uncle Chuck?" Edd asked, sliding out from beneath Marie and standing up. He dusted the dirt from his pants before extending a hand to help Marie off the ground. She gladly took it and felt her cheeks grow warm and pink.

"New family friend who hasn't reached boyfriend status yet," she rolled her eyes. "Um, listen Double D…I won't say anything to my sisters yet," she told him in a whisper, afraid they might hear her.

"Oh, well if that's what you want," Edd answered, almost shyly. For some reason he felt disappointed and he didn't know why. But the feeling was fleeting as Marie smiled.

"I'd much rather show them," she giggled, pulling the hat over his eyes before making her way into the woods. "But that's for another day," when she told him this, she had all ready disappeared behind the trees. "All right, I see your ugly faces, I'm over here!"

Edd noticed how distant her voice sounded, and stayed beside the creek until he couldn't hear her anymore. When it finally faded away he started his walk back to the cul-de-sac. When he took a glance down at his watch he discovered it had only been one very short hour.

It amazing, he thought, how one hour changed his entire view of just one person. Marie Kanker wasn't scary anymore and she wasn't annoying. Marie had somehow become a person that Edd had fallen very deeply in like with, so much in like he had been brave enough to actually kiss her and inwardly he thought he'd like to kiss her some more. And though the explanations of why Edd had been off with a Kanker for so long would surely disgust his friends, he truly didn't care.

It was the end of his fourteenth summer, exactly 6 o'clock, and two years of being chased by her should have been enough time to make him realize Marie Kanker was a human being that he could honestly have feelings for.

What a difference one hour makes.