Your name is Dib Membrane and you are currently flipping through pamphlets that were "helpfully" given to you by your potential hate-boyfriend.
This whole thing started about a week ago. You and Zim were screaming at each other as usual in the school cafeteria.
“Why don’t you just give up, Dib?” he was mocking you. “You are no match for my SUPERIOR INTELLECT! You only serve to WORSEN YOUR CONDITION when you become my SLAVE!”
You scoffed. “I’m never going to let that happen, Zim” you said, getting close to his face to glare right into his fake lenses. “I will spend the rest of my life trying to destroy you if that’s what I have to do! I swear that you will never become ruler of this world as long as I’m around!”
“Then I will have to do away with you!” he announced. “Your blood shall be the first spilt for the MIGHTY IRKEN CONQUEST OF EARTH! It will be too easy to incapacitate your weak human form!”
You smirked at him. “If I’m so easy to get rid of, then why haven’t you done it yet?”
He simply glared at you. “I loathe you,” he said through clenched teeth. You grinned, feeling like you’d won this argument.
“Yeah, well. The feeling’s mutual.”
That’s when he grabbed your collar and pulled you into a kiss.
It was bizarre, kissing Zim. His lips gave way to a tongue like sandpaper, wearing at the skin on your lips and it was.. wonderful. The way he kissed you like he hated you was completely delicious. And also completely confusing.
“What was that about?” you’d said weakly after pulling away. The whole cafeteria was quiet, and Zim was just blinking at you.
“I despise you, you horrible flesh creature. You obviously deplore me. It seemed as though it is about time somebody acted on it,” he stated, matter-of-factly. You stared at him.
To your surprise, he blushed and looked away.
“You heard me. I said that I loathe you.”
“But then why did you-“
“Isn’t that what one is supposed to do when they are feeling these strong emotions about another lifeform?”
You blinked, narrowing your eyes at him.
“Is this another one of your schemes? Are your lips poisoned or something?” You wiped fervently at your mouth just to be sure. Weirdly enough, he looked… almost disappointed. Like you had hurt his feelings. He turned away and pushed his fingers to his temple in thought.
“Hmm… perhaps the mechanics of human copulation are not quite the same as those of the Irken empire…” he mumbled to himself. You blushed.
“Uh, what?” you squeaked, hoping you misheard.
He looked up at you, as if he were surprised that you were still there. Then he started laughing maniacally.
“Yes! I definitely tried to poison you! That is the only reason for my display of affection just then! HAHAHAH!” You gave him a bizarre look, the whole cafeteria overflowing with awkward silence. Zim looked hastily around at all of them, before throwing his hands in the air. “I’M NORMAL. FAREWELL DIB-THING,” he announced, before hastily exiting the cafeteria. The other kids gave you a funny look before resuming their conversations.
You blinked after him and sat back down, wondering what had just happened. Gaz didn’t even look up from her game.
“Knew it,” she said.
“That you and Zim had a secret thing.”
You were too dazed to protest.
That night during Mysterious Mysteries, a note was crammed under your door.
COME AT ONCE TO THE PARK. WE HAVE TO TALK. I SWEAR THAT THIS IS NOT A TRAP. IF IT WERE, COME ANYWAY.
YOUR SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY,
You sighed and pulled your shoes on. It was a rerun of an old episode anyway. You yelled to Gaz that you were heading to the park to meet Zim, slamming the door on her inevitable comment about your “secret romantic rendezvous.”
It was only a short walk to the park, made even shorter by your quick feet and head full of thoughts. You alternated between planning your response if he attacked you, and planning your response if he tried to poison you by kissing you again. By the time you got to the park, you thought that you were prepared for whatever he threw at you.
You were wrong.
Zim was sitting on a park bench, arm hanging over the back of the bench with his legs crossed in a way that was too casual to have been natural for Zim. He was staring into space with a look on his face that was more sour than usual. He noticed you and fixed you with a toothy grin that turned your stomach.
"Hello, Dib." He tried and failed not to grimace at your name. You rolled your eyes.
"We can skip the greeting, Zim. What do you want."
Zim smirked slightly and patted the bench next to him.
"Why don't you sit down, Dib. We have a lot to talk about."
You eyed the bench next to him warily, then fished a pen out of your pocket. After prodding the bench with it, you cautiously sat down. Zim nodded quickly, seemly satisfied at your level of trust, then fidgeted in an uncomfortable way, almost as if he were embarrassed.
You crossed your arms and stared at him.
Zim cleared his throat.
"Ahem, yes. Dib, the reason why I have called you here is to discuss our relationship."
"Our... relationship?" You had no idea where this was going, but it sounded like it was about to get really awkward really fast.
"Yes Dib, our relationship! We hate each other copiously, we spend a lot of time trying to thwart each other, these things are correct, yes?"
You breathed a sigh of relief. "Did you call me all the way here just to tell me that? It's not like you have to ask, obviously we hate each other. Can I go home now?"
Zim looked you up and down, as if he were sizing up your reaction before continuing.
"You will have permission to leave when I say so, and I'm not finished with you yet," he stated through gritted teeth. You sighed.
"As I was saying," he snarled. "Our mutual hatred is quite strong, and though I despise admitting it, we are fairly evenly matched as rivals, or at least we will be until I gain the resources that have been promised to me by the armada."
"Yeah, I still don't see where you're going with this-"
"QUIET FOOL. Now, it has come to my attention that hate plays a different role in your pathetic culture than it does in the Irken tradition. That is, it's not considered something that you feel towards your mate."
Oh no oh no.
This was going exactly where you were worried it might go.
"Zim, please for the love of all that is holy don't say that you have a crush on me. Please," you said quickly. Zim scoffed.
"Your fear of me crushing you is well-founded, but that is not my intent." He fixed you with a serious glare that took you off guard. "You don't seem to understand. When I say that I loathe you, I mean that I loathe you in a romantic capacity."
Your mind shut up for a second as the words romantic capacity washed over you. When your brain started up again it was going at a million miles a second.
"Wait, so what you're saying is that, you hate me, but you like me?"
Zim made an irritated noise.
"No you halfwit, I hate you entirely. I simply hate you romantically. It's not that hard to understand, although I suppose for your tiny human brain-"
"But... Zim, that's not even a thing. You don't just hate someone so much that you have the hots for them, it doesn't work like-"
“I’m an alien, Dib. You didn’t really think that Irken definitions of romance would be the same as your pathetic human courtship rituals, did you?”
You stared at him. You guess you didn't really think about that. Sure, Zim seemed alien and evil and bizarre in every way, but you'd never really thought about anything other than his invasion plans. It never occurred to you to think about how his species works. You guess you thought you'd just figure all that stuff out when you got him into a science lab. Asking him about it was never really an option.
Well, since it was an option, you might as well learn something.
"Fine. What exactly are the Irken definitions of romance."
Zim's face lit up slightly.
"Unlike humans, the people of the Irken empire are not BURDENED by PETTY, WEAK EMOTIONS like LOVE. We feel only HATRED, and occasionally amusement and veneration. It is part of what makes our empire so powerful; WE DO NOT PITY, anyone or anything. Our mating system relies on each individual Irken finding a RIVAL, an archnemesis so to speak, with whom they can engage in an EPIC AND ETERNAL DANCE OF WITS, POWER, AND WILLS. If a strong, suitable rival is found, then they both shall continue to make each other stronger by promising to constantly CHALLENGE and DESPISE the other. Particularly strong rivalries are chosen to send genetic material to the motherbot to create the NEXT GENERATION OF IRKEN SOLDIERS."
He produced some pamphlets from his pocket.
"Here. These are the fliers that the empire issues to newly inducted infants to explain all of this. Perhaps they can help even your miniscule intellect digest this concept."
Dazed, you picked up the pamphlets and flipped through them. They were in some weird alien language, but the diagrams were clear enough. Some were even too clear.
This was all way too alien, even for you. Motherbot? Genetic material? It was going way over your head. You must have looked completely lost, because Zim took one look at your face and intensified his explanation, leaning toward you as he spoke.
"Dib, I believe that you could be my fated nemesis. Ever since my arrival on this dismal excuse for a planet you have been nothing but a thorn in my side. You have thwarted me at every turn, and in some cases I have thwarted you. Our dance has already begun. I cannot imagine loathing someone more than I loathe you." Zim stood up suddenly, blushing profusely. "SO, BE MY RIVAL OR SUFFER," he shouted, pointing at you in a way that was obviously meant to be menacing but really just made him look more vulnerable than ever.
You stared at him in disbelief.
"...That's how you're asking me out? 'Be mine or suffer'?"
Zim blushed even more.
"IRRELEVANT. NOW ANSWER ME."
You sighed and stood up, wobbling slightly on your feet.
"Zim, this has been a really long day. I'm going home now." You casually scooped up the pamphlets before pretending to storm off. You could hear Zim shouting after you, but your head was still swimming too much for that to bother you at all.
Days passed. You avoided Zim at school, although he did his best to try and corner you. He even left hate-romantic notes in your locker. He was terrible at writing them, and after reading his third letter titled "I'M GOING TO KISS YOUR FACE UNTIL IT MELTS OFF," you started throwing them away without even giving them a chance.
It wasn't as if you weren't considering it. An alien had approached you with romantic intentions. Wasn't that the dream? Wasn't this an opportunity to become the open-minded citizen of the universe that you had always claimed to be?
But it was Zim. You hated Zim. And while clearly that was a plus to him, you weren't sure that you could be romantic with someone that you hated so much. It went against everything you thought you knew.
And yet, your traitorous mind kept going back to that kiss. It was aggressive and passionate and totally alien, and yeah, okay, you really liked it. But that was weird, right? You were supposed to like sweet, tender, loving kisses from sweet, tender, loving girls. The plan was to find a nice, paranormal-enthusiastic girl to settle down with. Being turned on by sandpapery alien boy kisses was never part of that plan.
You scanned the paphlets and put them on the internet, hoping that some of your friends who specialize in xenolinguistics would be able to translate them. As it turns out, xenolinguistics is a joke when the xenolinguists in question have never actually talked to a single alien, let alone learned their language, so you had to scrap that idea. Thus you now find yourself lying on your bedroom floor, once again trying to understand the mystery that is Irken romance.
The diagrams are detailed and scientific, and you find yourself irritated with how soulless they are. This goes here, that goes there, that goes to the motherbot- the mechanics are clear (and a bit terrifying, you'll admit), but the emotions aren't explained. It's not like Zim is a cog in some giant machine; when he spoke to you he was obviously feeling some really intense things. You wish the diagrams would explain that, instead of how exactly the motherbot gets her genetic code samplings.
You sigh heavily and roll over. Gaz, walking past your room, hears you and stops.
"What's the matter, boy trouble," she asks with feigned interest, walking into your room and sitting down. You glare at her, but it's no use. She's staring intently at her hand-held game.
"More like alien trouble," you grumble, tossing the pamphlets to one side. You roll over to face her. "Gaz, do you think it's possible to hate someone so much that you actually love them?"
Gaz shrugs, biting her lip as she mashes the keys on her game. "Love. Hate. What's the difference."
You furrow your brow, considering that. Then, in a split second of realization, you sit upright.
"That's it! Thanks Gaz!" You run out of your room, grabbing your coat as you go. Gaz doesn't even look up.
"Yeah. Not sure what I did, so no problem," she mutters.
You race out the door and run as quickly as you can to Zim's house. You quickly navigate the traps and mines set up in the front yard and ring the doorbell.
"ZIM? ZIM I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE, OPEN UP," you shout as quickly as you can before the automatic sensors recognize you and throw you from the doorstep. You can hear the whirs and beeps of the system being disarmed from the inside, then the door swings open. Zim is standing there, looking irritated.
"Yes, what." He looks really unhappy to see you, and he avoids your eyes as he shifts from one foot to another uncomfortably. You grab him by the shoulders and glare at him intently.
"Zim. I hate you. I hate you a lot, but not like the normal kind of hate where I wish you would die because I honestly don't know what I'd do if you were gone. Hating you has become my life, and whether I like it or not, I am your rival. Until the bitter end, I will keep on hating you and I will keep trying to stop you, but please don't ever go away because if you do I don't know what I'll do with myself." You pause. He's staring at you with a slackjawed expression that is so gut-wrenchingly despicable that you want to kiss him right then and there, but you don't.
Instead, you ask him.
"Is that what you mean when you say you loathe me?"
His surprise breaks into an expression of maniacal glee and he nods enthusiastically.
"Yes you obtuse idiot, that is exactly what I mean. Your brain must be smaller than I thought if it took you this long to figure out, I suppose that massive head is mostly comprised of air and jelly-"
You grin and cut off his spiteful rant with a kiss. It's toothy and awkward and a bit painful but you wouldn't have it any other way. Zim wraps his arms around your back, and wow, you hadn't noticed his claws before, what with the gloves and all, but you notice them now and the way that they dig into your skin is delightful. You and Zim fall into the house, a tangle of teeth and claws and limbs fiercely trying to bring each other closer and simultaneously push each other away.
As the door closes behind you, you wish that you had realized just how much you hate him a whole lot sooner.