A/N: This takes place after another story of mine called Experimental. If you haven't already clicked the back button, you might be okay to stick around if you haven't read it, I think the characters basically recap everything from that story you need to know to understand this one. Basically Zim did stupid things and ran into some scary people who tried to kill him but couldn't quite manage it and there was a bit of a kerfuffle.
The chupacabra was seven feet tall and dripping mucus. It took a step closer to Dib, snorting a gobbet of snot at him.
Dib backed up. His heart was pounding in his chest.
"I have found you," the chupacabra growled, in a voice like grinding steel. "You have exploited my children and taken my food, and I will suck the brains from your head and tear your carcass to the four winds."
"No, you won't!" Dib said, flinging one arm in a dramatic skyward point. He was sweating a bit, though. He knew his 'secret weapon' wasn't exactly reliable... or good.
The stink of the chupacabra filled the air. It made Dib want to gag. "Your soul will be torn to shreds," the chupacabra said. "You will be erased from existence. And then I'll go after your family. You're just so annoying, Dib."
Dib felt his back hit the wall. The chupacabra's long rubbery snout lifted, and it began to suck in air. Dib's hair and jacket started to be drawn into the suck-stream.
Maybe this plan really wasn't going to-
A shrill cry that set Dib's teeth on edge filled the air. The chupacabra turned to find the source of that horrible noise, and a flash of gleaming metal hit it in the face.
The chupacabra rolled on the ground as what looked like a ball of spindly wires flashed over it. Green blood spurted in the air. There were no screams now, only sounds of flesh tearing and punches landing.
Dib ran, darting around the pile of alien monster versus garden-variety Earth monster. He went for the zapper the chupacabra had knocked out of his hand.
He wiped the slime from the zapper off onto his shirt, grimaced at the ruination of said shirt, and turned the zapper towards the fighting pile.
Something shot out of that pile and landed at Dib's feet. It was Zim, panting for air, one arm bent at an unnatural angle. His skin was covered in blisters. He must not take kindly to chupacabra mucus.
Ah, but the chupacabra had long, deep gashes through its belly and shoulders and face, and it was pouring acid green blood onto the ground. It keened its anger towards the overcast sky.
"Ew," Dib said. "Overkill much?"
"You're. Welcome," Zim gasped.
Dib aimed the zapper and fired. The chupacabra twitched and convulsed, and fell to the ground.
Dib went over and checked its vital signs. It was stone dead.
"It was stalking me for months," Dib said.
"Seems like you made it mad."
"Oh, right, everything is my fault," said Dib. He looked down at the mass of dead creature. "It's just... dead. I won."
He couldn't help turning and looking at Zim, who was sitting up- ashen pale and cradling his broken arm, but very much alive.
"Well done, Dib!" Zim sneered. "You destroyed it... all on your VERY OWN!" He staggered to his feet. "I'd clap. But. My arm is broken."
"Where did you learn sarcasm?" Sarcasm. Sarca-zim. Ha ha. That wasn't all that funny. Dib didn't say it aloud.
Zim deigned not to answer. He walked over and kicked the dead chupacabra.
"Don't you have any respect for the dead?" Dib asked.
Zim turned a nasty grin on him. "I'm sorry. I should leave it intact, so you can DISSECT it. IS THAT IT?"
Dib flinched. "Quiet down! I didn't make you come with me. You wanted to for whatever sicko alien reason. You weren't going to try to turn on me, were you? Is that why you're mad, it wouldn't go through with the double-cross you wanted? I knew you weren't really going to be helpful on purpose!"
Zim kicked it again. "You did exploit its children."
"Why did I expect you not to take the ugly green monster's side?"
"I care not for its revolting offspring, Dib. I told you I came with you to assess the capabilities of these creatures you're always going on about." Zim put his good hand on his hip. "My assessment: they are PATHETIC! They crumble under the first assault. Truly no threat to me."
Right. Zim had said that when he had volunteered to come on this mission... out of nowhere. It had sounded weird and stupid then, and it sounded weird and stupid now, but Zim was weird and stupid.
"Good for you." Dib holstered his zapper. He supposed he should take samples of the chupacabra, but it smelled bad, and it was bleeding copiously, and... he didn't want to touch it.
"Why did you let me come with you if you were just going to make noise about not trusting me the whole time?"
"Honestly? I was kinda hoping it would eat you."
Zim had the nerve to look offended.
Dib looked away from the chupacabra corpse at the field, the abandoned brick wall and half a fence, the dead and wet grass that still had bits of snow in it, the cold gray sky. Everything was so normal and quiet now.
A gust of wind blew, whipping at Dib's face. Zim, who was only wearing his usual silly uniform, shivered and hugged himself with his good arm and for a moment looked very small, tired and lost. He probably literally had no idea how to get home from here.
"I'm calling the Swollen Eyeballs to let them know about the new specimen," Dib said. He took out his cell phone.
"Mm." Zim shuddered and started walking away. "Well, I'd best be going."
"No, stay, they'd love to meet you," Dib said, out of obligation more than anything else.
Zim just glared at him.
Swollen Eyeball operatives never wanted to hang around talking to Dib for very long and today he was fine with that.
He had forgotten who he'd brought with him on this trip, and he jumped in shock when he walked up to the campsite and Zim was sitting there huddled under a blanket, looking windburnt and trying to dry out his boots over a small and sickly-looking excuse for a campfire.
"Oh," Dib said. "You."
"Me," Zim grunted, one antenna flicking as if to bat off a fly.
Dib sat down across from Zim, the place where he was farthest from the alien while still being next to the fire. "I had towels and moist towelettes. Where'd they go?"
"I used them all. Then I burned them."
"I'm covered in chupacabra mucus!"
"So am I! Still! Bring more things next time!"
Dib scowled. He took a squashed and funky-smelling meal bar out of his jacket pocket and started to eat it. It was dry and gross.
The fire was small and giving off a lot of smoke. "You couldn't do any better? I thought you were really into fire."
"Everything's wet! I'd like to see you do better! Also, my arm is broken!"
Dib had forgotten about that. "Fine." Dib didn't feel motivated to try to do better. The fight with the chupacabra had wrenched his shoulder, and his feet hurt from walking around trying to find the thing all day. "You know, I didn't invite you to come with me."
"I know that!"
"You invited yourself!"
"I know that, I was there!"
Dib's eyes narrowed. "And your reasons for wanting to come are pretty weak, Zim. Is this part of some new evil plan of yours?"
Zim looked down at the ground, his entire body slumping and his antennae falling flat against the back of his head. "No..."
Dib raised an eyebrow. "Oh. Um, okay. Are you all right?"
"You just... kind of wilted."
"Me?" Zim sat bolt upright and his eyes got crazy... er. Crazier. "I am an Irken Invader! I am the most elite of the elite and you-"
"Okay! Okay." Dib really didn't want to deal with this right now.
"I'll have plans!"
"So many plans! And they'll be good plans! Amazing plans! NONE CAN PLAN LIKE-"
"I have plans," Zim said. "You cannot DREAM of-"
"Zim, seriously, stop! Okay! You have plans. You're an evil mastermind. I get it."
Zim nodded, staring at Dib with a desperate intensity in his huge buggy eyes (which were glistening in the firelight in a most unsettling way).
Dib studied that intensity for a moment. "You know, it's been a while since I had to stop you. Zim?"
"Yes, I am Zim."
"I know you're- guh. I mean. You don't have... planner's block, or something, do you?"
"Of course not, don't be silly." Zim turned away, closing his eyes.
"Huh. Okay." Dib finished his meal bar, dropped the paper wrapper into the fire, and stood up, stretching. "I'm going to bed," he said, and walked toward the tent.
Zim showed up at the tent flap, right next to Dib.
"What are you doing?" Dib said.
Zim blinked, as if actually surprised by this question. "Hm? I'm going in the-" He motioned towards the tent flap.
"You are not going in my tent!"
"It's cold out," Zim said with less force than Dib would have expected.
It was pretty cold. "I don't care. Next time, bring your own tent."
"But, I-" Zim tossed his head. "Okay. Sure."
He'd given up way too easily, and clearly was therefore up to something, but Dib didn't care. He went into the tent, crawled into his sleeping bag and was asleep almost immediately.
Dib woke up in the dark with a full bladder. He reached out for his glasses and froze. Something was digging into his upper back- something that felt like metal. A gun? No, too smooth and too big to be the barrel of a gun.
Wait just a darn minute, that was a Pak. Dib sat up and felt around on the ground right next to him- his hand came down on a pile of blankets covering something soft and warm.
Dib slammed his elbow into the blanket pile and was rewarded by a drowsy honk of protest. Zim fidgeted around, snuffling. Dib couldn't see what he was doing- it was pitch black in the tent.
"What are you doing?" Dib asked.
"You're right next to me!"
"So cold. No room. You were sleeping."
"You sound like you were sleeping. I thought you didn't... oh, you were sleeping off your broken arm."
Alien biology. Whatever.
Dib got up, picked his way over the pile of already re-comatose alien and stumbled outside. The freezing air hit him like a knife. He found a good tree to pee on and went back to the tent to find his sleeping bag and Zim's blanket gathered together in the middle of the tent in one snoring heap.
Dib dug the Irken out of the heap of bedding and threw him out of the tent into the cold where he landed with a thump and a squeal. Dib crawled back into bed and heard a crunch as he lay down on top of his glasses.
The next time he woke up it was still dark, and Zim's sharp little heels were digging into his sides.
"Oh come on," Dib mumbled. "If you're going to crawl into someone's bed without permission take your shoes off first."
Zim thrashed around, elbowing Dib in the ribs. His breathing was harsh and ragged.
"Get out of my tent!" Dib aimed a kick and hit... something... maybe just blankets.
Zim whimpered and rolled over. Dib tried to catch hold of him, but he was squirming around too much.
"This is my tent, mine, come on, I just want to sleep-"
Zim screeched and Dib recoiled.
"Get your hands off,"Zim cried, flipping around. "No, I said no, don't do this, don't hurt me!"
Dib fumbled around until he found a grip on Zim's shoulders and then started to shake. "Wake up!"
"HELP! GIR! HELP! HELP!"
Zim started screaming wordlessly, over and over, as if confronted with a legion of undead. Dib felt around in the darkness until he found the side of Zim's face, and then he slapped it, hard.
The noise stopped.
Dib found his heart was racing, as if something scary had happened. Well. It was startling to be woken up by a noisy alien.
Zim was breathing raggedly, as if recovering from sobs. "I, I was back, and they, I was, I-"
"They, they were gunna kill me, and it, and it was cold, and I-"
"Shh. Okay. I get it. It's cold out. You can stay... in the tent. All right? Don't pull that again! Don't!"
Zim went still and quiet.
Dib pushed him away and rolled onto his side.
Zim continued to be quiet but Dib felt wide awake now. His heart wouldn't seem to calm down.
"What were you dreaming about?" he said. "Not me, by any chance..."
Zim cleared his throat. "You wish. Irkens don't dream, Dib."
"Why were you screaming?"
"A clever ruse, to gain entry to your tent!"
"Right. Of course."
Dib took deep, slow breaths, trying to get himself to sleep.
He was almost there when he heard choked sobs.
The walk back home was a long one, and a cold one, and the rolled-up tent was very heavy on Dib's back.
Dib had had a few bad nightmares in his life, and he'd woken up sweating a few times, even puked once (after the 'fountain of pus' dream...) but he didn't wake up screaming. Which was good, Gaz would have frowned on that.
After about an hour of walking in silence, Dib decided to break the ice.
"Okay, so... it's no secret that I'll ridicule you mercilessly for whatever had you so worked up last night. But we both know I'll find out eventually, so you might as well tell me!"
Zim looked totally blank. "I don't know what you mean..."
Dib adjusted his glasses (he'd totaled them when he rolled over on them, he'd bound up the frames with duct tape but couldn't do anything about the cracks in the lenses that obscured his vision). "You were
'back'? Someone was 'gonna kill you'?"
Zim paled visibly and turned his face away. "Irkens don't dream. I don't know what you could possibly be talking about."
"Was it me? Did I finally expose you for the horrible menace you are, did I rip your guts out of your chest?"
Zim rolled his eyes. "Guts come out of the belly, Dib. Not the chest."
"Whatever. Good to know. Were you melting in the rain?"
"Fused to a side of meat?"
"I'll find out, you know."
Zim's eyes narrowed. "There is nothing. To find out."
"Whatever. All right. Things that creep you out. Let's see. Dogs. Meat. Air. People. Dirt. Germs. Disease. Did you dream you had some kind of horrible flesh-eating illness?"
Zim avoided eye contact. "No."
"No! I told you I didn't dream anything!"
"So a flesh-eating illness-"
"And someone killing you."
"I said no!"
"And you were back somewh- oh." Dib smacked himself in the forehead. "Man! This is so obvious!"
"What? What's obvious? Nothing's obvious."
Zim sucked his lower lip into his mouth.
"I dreamed about them too a few times," Dib mused. "I didn't scream, though."
Zim stared straight ahead, continuing to bite his lip. A drop of blood ran down his chin.
"Oh man. They really upset you." Dib frowned. "I've been after you for years, and you're not all wigged out about me. Do you not think I'll really do it? You don't think I'll really kill you someday, do you? You don't trust m-"
"Not everything is about you!" Zim cried. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "Ow!"
"I just don't understand what your big deal was with them. I mean... you experiment on people all the time."
"Unh." Zim looked away. "I don't want to talk about it."
"But why would you-"
Zim did an about-face and started walking very quickly away from Dib.
"Hey!" Dib called, holding out one hand in a 'stop' gesture. "Wait... I..."
He let his hand fall to his side. Why was he bothering?
He walked into the house and Gaz was sitting there parked in front of the TV with a book. She was reading and watching TV? And there was an earpiece plugged into her ear.
"I said," she said, "now is not the time for-"
She turned a page in her book. Her eyes burned in her face and Dib recoiled. "I said, Iggins, you will not throw that jarate."
Dib cleared his throat. "Gaz, I'm home."
She looked at him, then looked away. "Iggins, your life is over," she said.
Dib shrugged and went upstairs, heading straight for the shower.
After the shower he headed into his bedroom and sat down in front of his laptop. He opened it up. He'd been gone three days, his inbox must be full of Swollen Eyeball messages by now.
The screen was black and covered in white letters.
DID YOU THINK YOU COULD HIDE FROM US DIB
YOUR END IS NEAR
"Great," Dib muttered.
A/N: I know Jhonen has said Irkens don't sleep. The first fic was written before I knew they absolutely don't sleep, so I figured I might as well keep going with the same 'rules' I had in that one.