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A Night To Forget

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Dib’s head continued to pound in his temples as his car rolled to a stop in the closest spot he could snag near his dorm. In fact, his whole body ached. He took a moment to attempt alleviating some of the tension that flowed through him, stretching his lanky legs while exiting the compact car his dad insisted he got. It was January 1st, and classes would be starting back up after the winter break. A few familiar faces walked by, and Dib awkwardly raised his hand in greeting to his peers who didn’t even make eye contact with his slightly worse than usual appearance. It was an unfortunately familiar response even here at a new school in a new town. Maybe he just gave off that sort of aura- the greasy young man who never quite grew into his allegedly large head, only growing out the stilts that supported it. He sighed, deep and long. Could he really complain that much? After all, he had just gone to a party in his home town last night. When he heard the students giggle as they continued to walk away from Dib a thought crossed his mind- yeah, actually, he could complain.

It wasn’t fair. How was it that despite being a clone of an objectively handsome and unarguably smart man, he had next to no social skills? Starting college was supposed to be his fresh start,he went out of his way to make sure his new school was anything but local. Sure he had his... “eccentricities”, but who doesn’t? Was it the trench coats? The shaved part of his head? No way, he looked cool! They were probably intimidated by his superior intellect! Many of the classes he was enrolled in were more advanced than the ones other freshman here were taking, as anyone would expect of Membrane’s clone. Wait- where was going? His head pounded harder the more he thought it over, avoiding the loudest one screaming in the back of his mind.

As much as he wanted to bitch and moan about the fact he had no friends, ultimately Dib knew it was a good part his own fault. In fact, he did have friends. He had his sister and… well. He had Gaz for sure. That small angry voice in the back of his head continued to holler- muffled by the pain of his hangover.

Dib had left town early and fast January 1st, wanting to get back to his dorm as quickly as possible. Being back in his old town brought back so many memories he fought to keep at bay his whole visit. And for what? For his Dad to take an hour or two off of work on Christmas morning? He didn’t even end up seeing the person he had really wanted to. Well, maybe he had. In a way. But dreams didn’t count- otherwise Dib could say he saw Zim on a very regular basis. Which wasn’t the case, because if it was maybe Zim wouldn’t still hate Dib.

And there it was, that angry voice in his head yelling the thoughts he really wanted to think. It was full force, taking complete control of his entire mind as he unloaded his bag from the back seat.

Zim.

The name made his bag feel like it was loaded with rocks, or maybe that was the hangover. He had even dreamed of the little green alien last night, after he had gotten back from the party. It was a blurry mess, he couldn’t recall any specifics aside from the fact that even now Zim dominated a huge part of Dib’s mind. He was sure the alien would be delighted to know that despite being an adult there was still that part of Dib that couldn’t quell his obsession with the fiend. The friend. Whatever. The thought of Zim made Dib’s throat swell tight in a way that made him hope no one around would try to talk to him, which they wouldn’t anyway. That kind of tightness that if you hold on hard enough, not even let air through then maybe you can fight back the wetness that starts pricking behind your eyeballs. So tight it ached, just like the rest of Dib. He chewed the inside of his cheek, trying to tame the internal fight his body put up when he thought too hard about their last encounter.

He felt like a coward avoiding Zim over his visit. But it was just… too hard? No, even Dib knew that wasn’t right. Both he and Zim had a tendency to throw themselves at any challenge, their own well-being be damned. Really, it was more of an ego problem. Two over inflated egos battling even after Zim and Dib had called a truce on their rivalry. His body ached differently now, more centered heavy and low in Dib’s gut. It hurt, feeling like he couldn’t go back to that freaky teal house sandwiched at the end of a cul-de-sac. As he walked with heavy footfalls up the stairs leading to his dorm, Dib continued to push back the memories that were fighting to surface and send him reeling with regret again. It was too hard, and his ego was too big.

Jesus, it’s like I can still hear his voice… Dib thought, realizing how cliche it sounded even to just himself. But it was true, and his brows knit tighter together as he turned the key in his door. Then the voice was louder.

“Took you long enough!”

Dib stood in shock, dropping the bag he had brought with him from the car in his door frame. Dib didn’t even hear it hit the floor, but he certainly felt his stomach follow it down.

“What kind of junk are you driving around anyway? I thought you had a spaceship, Dib-thing.” Zim mocked, sitting comfortably on Dibs bed.

Dib blinked, when that wasn’t making this- CLEARLY fake Zim disappear, he shoved his hand under his crooked glasses and rubbed. But once his sight returned, Zim was still there.
Not in his typical Invader’s Suit, no triangle shoulder pads and magenta armor, not even in his “disguise” if you can even call it that.
He sat in- oh god, Dib’s clothes?! Oh yeah, the navy-blue Mysterious Mysteries pullover that was engulfing Zim’s tiny green body was definitely Dib’s. His socks, too? That’s kinda gross... With his legs stretched Zim looked a little taller… Wait- Dib- not important.
Dib raked his eyes up Zim’s form to the giant, raspberry eyes that didn’t move but Dib felt search over him. Was he… challenging him by doing this?

He scowled at the whole situation. As if he wasn’t feeling shitty enough already, Dib had no idea what kind of stunt Zim was trying to pull now.

“What are you doing here, Zim?”

The sharp way he spat his name reminded Dib of when they were kids unable to see eye to eye. Not that they were seeing eye to eye much nowadays as Dib had grown more than a foot taller than the irken.

Zim’s eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted into a frown.

“Don’t play dumb, hair pig. ZIM was just, eh… Visiting his human.”

Wait, ‘his human’? Oh, definitely a challenge, and a really stupid one too. Zim’s words drilled against Dib’s already thundering headache, maybe he was just a hallucination brought on by head trauma? Dib could only hope.

He huffed a long, frustrated sigh and slammed the door behind him. The intention was to show Zim he meant business, maybe alleviate a little of the growing malice bubbling in his gut, but really it just clapped a sound wave through his vibrating skull.

Dib reflexively grabbed his forehead as his body hung forward for a moment, stumbling a bit. Quickly, he stumbled to sit on the edge of the bed- a spot far enough from Zim to recover. Once he felt the nausea twist up his throat, then finally fade away he lifted his head to see Zim had crawled across the bed on his hands and knees. Studying Dib again, more focused this time, Dib itched at the feeling of those unmoving eyes darting across him somehow.

He was so lost in trying to fight through the fog of his headache to come up with some quick-witted dig at Zim that it took him a moment to register the light weight that fell in his lap.

It was Zim’s head, laying back across his thighs with fuchsia eyes that seemingly sparkled gazing upward at Dib with an almost mischievous look. The motion was so intimate that the second it registered with Dib what was happening he shot back up like a rocket on to his feet and strode a few steps away from his bed. His heart felt like it was beating about as quickly as his overreaction- and Dib grabbed at his own chest while his head positively swam. Rocking in place for a moment as if he were at sea, Dib’s shocked face sputtered at the startled- and now irritated looking alien.

When he had leaped up it knocked Zim over enough for him to have half-fallen off the bed. With little claws, still covered with his normal gloves despite the lack of his invader outfit, Zim scrambled back onto his place on Dib’s bed trying to look as dignified as one can when nearly thrown to the floor.

“Wh- what was THAT?” Dib choked out, his heart finally relaxing back to a semi-normal pace.

“I should ask you! You dare throw your ZIM?”

Zim was looking at Dib with a deeply offended expression, antennae pressed back against his skull. But he broke eye contact first as Dib stared him down with disbelief, only to inspect and wipe any presumed dust that may have gotten on the stolen sweatshirt. Zim continued to mutter something about Dib being thankless, and Dib looked away only to rake his eyes across the rest of his dorm.

Not only was Zim here, but so were his things.

Some sort of plasma gun sat menacingly on top of one of Dib’s math books, a small drip from it’s nozzle already eating at the cover of the expensive tome. A horribly stained looking pet bed was carefully placed near the foot of his bed, clearly labeled with ‘GIR’. More and more things began to catch his eye: rubber piggies, strange looking tools and communication devices, the horrible portrait of the monkey that used to hang above Zim’s couch. It was all so overwhelming Dib actually felt his knees wobble.

“Well…?” Zim’s voice rasped nearby. “How do you like it? I think I made QUITE a few improvements to your horrible little dirt lair.”

Dib’s eyes swung furiously back to Zim, who sat with his gloved little hands in his lap wearing one of his incredibly wide smiles that fully showcased his strange zipper-like teeth. It was all Dib could take to avoid exploding at him right then and there. What the hell was going on?

“I’m gonna give you thirty seconds to explain yourself before I… “ Dib racked his brain for any kind of meaningful threat. “Before I lose it!” It was weak, but Zim’s antenna seemed to twitch in response anyway.

“Me? Explain myself?” Zim cocked his head a bit at Dib, as if he were talking to a particularly stupid five year old. There was a soft hiss that Dib could hear build up behind Zim’s words, the way it did when the alien was especially frustrated. “I should have known I would have to hold your STUPID human hand through all of this like an inactivated smeet! You’ve always been a bit dumb in the humongous head.”

God, Why did Zim always have to be so hot and cold with him? One minute he’s trying to climb into Dib’s lap, and the next he’s being roasted. Zim sat firmly on Dib’s bed, arms crossed as if to make a point.
“Need I remind you that you’re the one who instigated this thing? You should be honored Zim accepted-“

“I never asked you to move into my dorm! You don’t even go to school here!” Dib felt like he was going crazy, it was like Zim functioned on another plane of reality sometimes.

“Perhaps you didn’t say that directly, but I assumed it came with the territory.”

“Territory? NONE of this is your territory!” Dib practically yelled, flailing his arms to gesture across the small room. He didn’t understand why Zim was suddenly trying to stake a claim back into his life.

The look Zim gave him in return gave Dib pause. There was a level of intensity behind the half lidded fuchsia colored eyes that the college student hadn’t been prepared for, and it sent a wave of goosebumps over his arms.

“Oh to the contrary, Dib.” Zim’s voice was low and soft. “It is my territory now. And so are you.”

It was like the words sent an electric shock through his whole body. Dib stiffened, and felt his face grow hot, surely out of anger? His breath seemed to come a bit shorter as he assessed the way Zim sat on his bed, small and so sure of himself wrapped up in Dib’s sweater. Words were trying to process, something to defy Zim’s claim, but Dib fell short sputtering like an idiot.

“Isn’t that what we had agreed to last night?” Zim gazed at Dib unblinkingly. Dib stared back, hoping to find answers somewhere behind the reflective eyes but all he could see was his own perturbed expression.

“When we became mates?”

Zims statement felt like a physical punch to Dib’s gut. Mates? What was that supposed to mean? His mind and heart were racing and Dib was desperately trying to give the logical side of him the louder platform. But his heart wanted to scream just as loudly. Did something actually happen between them? After all their history, everything they had been through? It wasn’t like Dib hadn’t fantasized, laying in his room at night that maybe someday he and Zim could be more than what they were, but who had he been kidding? Zim was an irken- bloodthirsty and violent to the grave.

Even if he had become less feral with his time spent on Earth, how could Dib ever expect Zim to fully understand any kind of romance or nuance? And from what Zim had told him, Irkens were hatched in some kind of mass facility, not even from an egg. Dib had assumed there was hardly a possibility for anything like that to ever cross Zims mind, and Dib had just been happy to have the alien as a friend despite the thoughts that sometimes intruded when Zim sat a little too close or looked at him a certain way. It wasn’t something he allowed himself to think about directly, with the exception of a handful of nights alone in his room. Maybe more than a handful.

No, no, stop it. He shouldn’t even entertain the idea that this is legitimate. Knowing Zim, this was probably just some weird gaslighting tactic to force Dib into forgiving him. And he wasn’t going to let his guard down that easily.

“Okay, this is a pretty messed up trick to play even for you.” Dib let the contempt leak into his voice. He hated the thought of Zim using Dib’s unrequited feelings against him. It wasn’t fair.

Zim leapt off the bed and onto his feet in front of Dib. Despite his small stature, he always seemed to be larger than life when he got like this. Maybe that was just his voice.

“It’s not a lie you MORON! I give you an unforgettable night, yet your STUPID MONKEY BRAIN can’t even retain it?” It was impressive how wide Zim could open his mouth when he yelled.

“Jesus Christ, dude! If you wanted to come and apologize for that shit you pulled back in September then maybe I would have heard you out. Now you’re just crossing the line.” Dib held his place, unintimidated by Zim despite the screeching. It was something he was used to, the only concern was the students in the dorms next to him.

However, Zim seemed to back off a bit. His antennae raised as his gaze bounced around the room as if there would be something to leap out and help his argument. “Ah,” Zim made a noise, scrambling for the gun Dib had spotted earlier. Dib instinctively braced himself, wondering if Zim was really about to attack him here.

There were no shots fired, only the scrambling noise of Zim grabbing the gun and promptly handing it over to Dib. He held the alien weapon in his hands carefully, cautious of the plasma substance that had leaked from it before.

“I assure you this is no trick.” Zim searched Dibs face with his large eyes. “This goes both ways. What’s mine is also yours.”

Dib raised his eyebrows at this. Zim was certainly not the type to share without a fight. “I don’t want your crap here at all, I just- wow what kind of metal is this?” As much as he wanted Zims garbage out of his room, he couldn’t stop the curiosity that bubbled up inside him.

“It’s the finest material available directly from Irk. My PAK legs are also made from it.” Zim stated proudly as Dib aimed the gun and pantomimed firing a shot. “You can really shoot it, you know. It makes snacks.”

Dib gave Zim a slightly hesitant look before aiming it at his desk. Worst case scenario he could just replace the thing. Pulling the trigger showed him that Zim was actually telling the truth as a schnickers bar seemed to materialized out of nothing.

“Wow! You could solve world hunger with something like this!” Dib gawked at the candy, poking at it.

“Why would I ever do that?” Zim almost sounded offended.

“Well because- wait I’m still mad at you. You can’t just move your stuff in here and say I’m your mate now!” The gun was a good distraction, Dib would admit. He pocketed it, no intention of giving it back up to Zim quite yet.

“But that’s what mates do.” It was stated as a fact. Zims unreadable gaze made Dib uncomfortable, it was as if the irken had told the funniest joke the world had ever heard without realizing it.

Dib wasn’t laughing though. “No!”

“Do not play dumb with me, my stink-boy! I’ve been on this FILTHY planet long enough to know that even human mates share a space!”

“No, I mean we’re not mates!” He wasn’t sure what signified “mates” on Irk, but he was certain that avoiding each other for three months couldn’t possibly be the way it was done. Unless there was something that had happened between the last night after the party…

“YES WE ARE!!!”

Zim raised himself taller than Dib stood using his PAK legs, to which Dib made a faint noise at the sound of them ripping through the back of his sweatshirt. They scuttled Zim close enough to Dib that he could use his sharp claw to poke Dib in the chest as he spoke.

“We are mates, Dib. Last night you pledged yourself to Zim and we bound ourselves together the Irken way. And through my many earth-years of research and GIR’s subscription to ‘home box office’ I also know for a FACT that humans also become mates in a Very Similar Way.” His finger jabbed into Dibs chest as he went on his rant, voice fluctuating it’s entire range.

Suddenly something clicked in Dib’s head.

“Did we have sex last night?” It sounded clumsy, coming out of his mouth like that.

“How many times must I say it!” Zim shouted, still suspended on the long spindly legs. Dib could see blood rushing to his cheeks beneath his green skin- even Zim was blushing at this.

“But I… uh, we? Oh my god…” Dib could hardly string a sentence together at the reality of their situation began to settle in. If this was a trick, Zim was taking it pretty far, and the truth was that Zim was not what Dib considered a good actor. Everything they had talked about seemed so… genuine. Plus, with Dib being drunk after the party, if Zim had come to visit him after not seeing him for so long… oh my god.

Dib pushed his glasses up to his forehead so his hands could sit on his face and cover his eyes. Throughout their whole conversation Dib could feel himself growing flushed at moments but now… oh boy. His whole face felt like it was going to melt off. He didn’t even want to know what he looked like- probably a weirdly splotchy tomato. It was too mortifying to look over at Zim, even after he felt the irken sit down beside him on the bed. He was awfully close.

“Zim, I have to know if you’re just messing with me.” Dib could hear the shakiness of his own voice as the words came out.

“Hmm?” Of course not! Irken mating is a very big deal, not to be joked about.” Zim spoke so matter-of-factly and Dib hated it.

He rubbed at his temples, still trying to process everything. “Of course when I finally lose my virginity I can’t even remember it…”

“Virginity? Whatever that is I promise I didn’t take it.”

Dib kind of wanted to laugh. He also kind of wanted to punch Zim in the face. That feeling went away quickly when Dib felt him run his four fingered hand up and down Dibs back in a comforting motion, causing Dib’s heart to skip a beat. It was such a soft touch, something so forgiegn to Dib, he rarely hugged his own dad so a gentle brush from a guy he threw hands with was more than a shock. Even Zim’s voice was soft when he spoke again, another rarity.

“So you really don’t remember then.” He sounded disappointed.

Dib pulled his hands back from his face to look over at Zim, who was still rubbing his back absentmindedly. A pang of guilt racked through his body.

“It’s not because of you or anything!” Dib sat up. “Believe me when I say I’ve… THOUGHT about it a lot! If I could force myself to remember I definitely would because, well, it seems like kind of a big deal! I mean even by human standards, let alone irken ones apparently. Oh my god, are we married??” Wait- he’s comforting Zim, he’s apologizing? His emotions pingponged in his skull.

Zim looked thoughtful. “I suppose that would be the closest human equivalent.”

Dibs hands shot into his hair, pushing back the messy black cowlick in panic. “Oh god, I got married and my family didn’t get to come to the wedding?” He wasn’t sure why this was bothering him, but there seemed to be a lot to worry about right now.

“For some reason I doubt that Dib Sister or the Membrane Father would have enjoyed witnessing our union.” Zim said bluntly, his face cringing at the statement alone.

“Yeah, no you’re right. I’m sorry, my heads just spinning and this is kind of a lot for me to take in.” Dib almost felt short of breath as he tried to compose and rationalize himself. There were a few beats of silence before either of them spoke again.

“A-HA!” Zims burst caused Dib to jump, startled by the loud raspiness of it. He opened his mouth to ask what it had been about, but Zim was already launching into a scheme.

“If my Dib cannot force himself to remember that we are mated… perhaps ZIM can!”

Zim’s face was set with determination and his mouth was clenched in a wide smile that displayed seemingly every tooth.

“Whoa whoa, hey I know that face don’t-” Dib started, a feeling of anxiety already waking in the pit of his belly at the expression Zim displayed. But the alien cut him off, already leaping off the bed and making his way to the window.

“Sorry Dib! No time! I’ve got a ‘husband’ with a memory to jog!” Zim cried triumphantly. Dib couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping at being addressed as Zim’s husband.

The Voot Cruiser appeared in the window, it must have been parked just below somewhere on a segment of the roof. Zim hopped inside, waving goodbye.

“See ya, DIIIB!” He called, almost tauntingly, before blasting away from the college. Dib could hear his maniacal laughter as the exhaust from the spacecraft dissipated in the air.

Even with Zim gone, Dib felt like he was rooted to the spot. Was any of what just happened even real? Slowly, he moved his jaw back into a closed position and lay back onto the bed, gazing upward to the ceiling. Zims things still littered the dorm and the freakish monkey painting glared down at him judgmentally. He settled on closing his eyes and retracing his steps last night, sitting up right to try to focus.

He remembered driving home, seeing Gaz on the couch, who ignored him to jostle the Game Slave in her hands. He remembered making a shitty comment about it, which Gaz stood up and threatened his life for. Nothing said “home” like way Gaz’s voice hissed about filling his head with rabid weasels.

He recalled his dad being there, for once, welcoming him home with Foodio from the kitchen. Awkward small talk about his major or whatever, then Gaz called them both ‘cringey’ and brought the booze out from the cabinet.

It got blurrier; Gaz laughing, the burn of the drink, climbing the stairs to his room.
Blurrier; his room was dark and exactly as he left it. He remembers appreciating his poster collection, he always had great taste.

Blurrier; something was tapping at his window? Or did it just open by itself?

Blurrier; he was happy for… some reason? Ecstatic even, did he get visited by Mothman finally and he can’t remember?! Nah, he’d never forget that.

Blurrier; Lots of talking… but what did he say? Who was it even too? Not like talking to himself was out of the question but this seemed different… there was something… someone… GOD cmon, Dib! Focus!

No, nothing.

Dib groaned and let his heavy head fall against his pillow.

It still smells like Zim

The smell derailed his groggily constructed train of thought. He let himself push his nose further into the fabric, breathing deep and letting it out in a sigh. Too tired to fight off the thought for now, he let his eyes fall shut.

___________________________

Dib couldn’t get the incident off his mind. How could he? He almost wanted to believe it had all just been some kind of hangover induced fever dream, if it weren’t for all the stuff Zim had left behind in his dorm. For whatever reason, he couldn’t bring himself to move any of it. Even the smelly “dog” bed…

Even just seeing Zim again- outside of the circumstances- was incredibly jarring. It changed his whole daily routine, and he felt like an obsessed 12 year old again despite his enrollment at a college. Even though he was still pissed about what happened before he came here, losing Zim was really losing his best friend. Maybe they never went out of their way to label it as such but even Dib knew. No one else could relate to him the way that alien could, not even Gaz. Dib supposed that’s why he was so incredibly hurt by him, and why the return was so shocking that it left Dib checking around corners before passing into hallways.

Every time he returned to his dorm, he half hoped- No! Wait, expected to find the invader waiting there so smugly in Dib’s clothes again. Every time the dorm turned out to be empty, Dib wondered why he ached. Shouldn’t he be glad Zim fucked off? He knew Zim would come back though, given how many things were left behind.

When Dib did open his door to find an impatient looking alien tapping his foot loudly,he still couldn’t help but yelp in surprise.

“Why do you feel the need to break and enter every time you show up here?” He asked, grasping at his heart a little while tossing his bag messily to the floor.

“I just cleaned up this room, Dib.” Zim angrily looked at the offending bag, his big raspberry eyes seemed more expressive without his contacts. It was true, the room was almost spotless. Dib certainly wasn’t the most organized student on this campus, it wasn’t uncommon to find food wrappers scattered about and unwashed clothes begging to be taken to the cleaners piled up in the corners. Wait, where were those clothes?

“Did you wash my clothes?” Dib asked, looking around for any sign of his favorite jeans.

“And risk touching the acid you call water? Of course not! I simply incinerated them. I don’t think there was any saving those pants anyway.” Zim looked so proud of his crimes. He was muttering something else about stains and germs.

“ZIM! Those were my favo-”

 

“ENOUGH TALK OF DIRTY CLOTHES! You’re making me SICK. Besides, I have something much more important to show you.” Dib would have protested more if it weren’t for the scary looking drill Zim had pulled out. “MY GREATEST INVENTION YET!”

Dibs insatiable curiosity always got the better of him, and he let his argument about the jeans go. “What is that?” He asked Zim with the tone of a concerned mother looking at their toddler holding something that would certainly stain the new white couch.

“I told you before, my Dib. Since your pathetic monkey brain can’t seem to recall the undeniable proof that we are now life-mates, I will prove it to you using this BRAIN DRILL!”

Dib shot back against the door in a panic. Brain drill? Was he joking?

“I am not letting you give me a lobotomy!” Dib was the one screaming this time, the thought of a lobotomy had been a legitimate fear back in the years where his dad had him institutionalized.

“No, stupid. I have one for me too!” Zim proudly held up two small looking screws. The drill-like object just seemed like the thing to administer whatever smaller devices he was holding. Zim began to explain.

“These memory probes will connect to our minds and link together. With this, I will be able to comb through any important memories we share and find the proof I need!”

Dib managed to unstick himself from the door and walk closer to the devices held in Zim’s three fingered hands. The irken even let him pick one up and examine it closer. It really was no bigger than the average screw, but on its end seemed to glow with some kind of electronic response. One of them glowed pink, and the other blue. Dib was still nervous at the thought of this thing poking into his head.

“I swear to you this will work.” Zim suddenly spoke much lower, more seriously. “I would never hurt my Dib.”

Zim paused.

“Well, I mean I won’t KILL you.”

Dib scoffed a little, but for whatever reason he felt like he could trust Zim. He found it harder and harder to hold his grudge the longer Zim was actually in his presence, and not just an abstraction of his mind.

“You better be telling the truth, because if I die I fully plan on coming back as a ghost and haunting your ass.” It was so natural to fall back into being playful with him, even when he tried to sound stern. Dib’s point seemed to get across to Zim to an extent though and he wore a concerned expression on his green face.

“If you became a ghost I would simply leave Earth.” Zim state matter of factly, like that would really solve the problem.

“I would just follow you into space. Ghosts don’t breathe!”

Zim looked a bit more unnerved. “Enough talk of this! I want to try this thing out.” The drill whirred in Zim’s hand, bringing Dib’s attention back to their situation.

“Alright, alright.” Dib sighed, giving in.

“I suggest you find somewhere you’re comfortable, it could take some time for me to locate the correct memory.” Zim spoke concisely as he fiddled with the drill. Dib couldn’t help but feel a little bit like an experiment. He supposed that wouldn’t be the first time, though.

As he made himself comfortable on his bed a thought crossed his mind. “How do I know you’re not just going to fabricate something fake? Remember that time after I threw a muffin at you and you totally went off the deep end with-”.

“This isn’t the same!” Zim cut him off. Typical. “Since we are linked together, we will be sharing control of the device. Any details one of us may not be able to recall, the other will be able to fill in. I doubt that will be particularly necessary, as my memory is perfect, but I designed it that way nonetheless.” He clicked the blue screw into place on the end of the drill and gave it another test whir. Dib felt his sweat go cold at the sight.

“So I have just as much control as you.” Dib asked suspiciously. Zim gave a nod and a glare, annoyed at how many questions were being asked. At least he could test out if Zim was actually telling the truth once they were hooked in.

“Try not to squirm too much.”

Zim approached the side of the bed with the drill in hand, pointed right at Dibs head. He couldn’t believe he was actually letting Zim do this but… they were friends after all right? Well, they were friends but… okay this was insane. Maybe his dad was right all those years. Dib closed his eyes and gripped the blanket below him tightly. He couldn’t suppress the small whimpering noise that escaped his lips when the tip of the screw touched against his temple, but almost immediately the other side of his face was being caressed. Dib wasn’t sure if it was just to hold his head in place while the device was put in place, but Zim had a reassuring hand gently placed along his jawline. The touch was so gentle it caused Dib to suck in a short surprised breath.

And then he yelled again. It really wasn’t as painful as he had expected, but that didn’t change the fact that there was a screw forced into Dib’s temple. But just as suddenly as the pain was there, it was gone again. Maybe it was something to do with the fact it was irken technology, but the worst of the feeling now was just a dulled pulsing. He opened his eyes to see Zim still hovering above him, hand connected to his jawline. There was a beat between the two before Zim took his hand away, and Dib couldn’t stop the subtle rush of blood to his face.

“So should I… do you next?” Dib asked, trying to assess if the screw was killing him or not. To his annoyance, Zim only let out an obnoxiously loud laugh.

“Oh, my Dib. So silly all the time! I would never trust you to put this in my head.” Zim wiped a nonexistent tear from his eye before lining the drill with his own temple. Just as quickly as Dibs, the device was in place and blinking with a pink light flush against his chartreuse skin.

“Well, I’m trusting you to do all this to me so I mean…” Dib couldn’t help but feel a little offended by the remark, but was quickly distracted when Zim crawled into the small bed alongside him. He moved to make room, squishing up against the wall. Zim was still quite small, and despite his undeniably tough nature his frame was still delicate. He really didn’t take up that much space on the bed, but it was still only a twin that Dib felt he had outgrown even on his own. As the two settled onto their backs, heads resting on the pillow, their arms lightly touched. Dib tried not to focus too hard on the feeling while Zim began his explanation of what to expect.

“When I activate the devices, our shared memories will sync together. It’s going to feel like we’re really there watching ourselves, but it’s only a memory.” He paused a moment, still gazing up at the ceiling. “The memories can’t be altered. I’ve tried.”

Dib turned to look at him there, trying to understand the expression Zim wore. It was so unreadable, so alien still. What memories would Zim try to change? Something to do with Dib? Something before coming to Earth? Suddenly, Zim was gazing into Dibs eyes. They were terribly close…

“Are you ready, my Dib?”

All he could do was swallow at that. It had made him so angry the first time he heard it, but with Zim laying beside him and looking at him so softly, Dib couldn’t stop his hearth from doing a flip. He cleared his throat from fear of his voice cracking.

“Um, yeah.” It cracked anyway.

Nothing else was said between them as Dib’s vision was suddenly plunged into darkness.