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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.

Chapter Text

It was like the two of them were standing in an inky black void, side by side just as close as they were laying on the bed. Dib took a tentative step away from Zim trying to comprehend what he was experiencing. It didn’t feel like he was laying back anymore, or even standing up really, it was more like he was floating near weightlessness despite his feet touching some kind of surface.

 

It was surreal… He removed his glasses for a moment while his eyes strained into the darkness, unable to see anything. When he turned back to Zim, the other was standing there perfectly in sight. The darkness that engulfed them made it seem like he was glowing, somehow perfectly lit. Even looking down at Dibs own hands, they were strikingly vibrant against their backdrop.

“This is so weird…” He mused, flexing his fingers lightly. Zim didn’t seem as impressed.

“Yes yes, very strange. But this wouldn’t be the first time you were inside your own head, would it?” Zim asked, a little smug.

Suddenly, there was a flurry of color surrounding them. Dib was rooted to the spot, mesmerized as the foggy colors slowly began to take form. Zim on the other hand, jumped close to Dib, going as far as to grab the human by the edge of his trenchcoat. Wait, was he worried? Was something bad happening? Also when did he put his coat on?

“You idiot!” Zim barked from behind the flap of his trenchcoat. The darkened street finally took its form, leaving Zim and Dib standing beside a tree near a suburban neighborhood. Dib nodded in wonder as he began to understand- the memory clear as day before him.

It was the other time they had been inside Dib’s head- that awful Halloween. The buildings were crooked and awful, like something ripped straight out of some children’s book of spooky stories. It was exactly as Dib remembered experiencing it the first time. He understood why Zim called him an idiot now.

“Hey! This is so not my fault! You’re the one who reminded me of this!” So it was true. Dib really did have as much control over their link as Zim did. This brought him a small amount of comfort before he spotted the memories versions of Zim and Dib running for the tree.

Oh, right.

Dib knew what was going to happen, and for whatever reason felt a small pang of guilt. They both made it back out just fine, and to be fair Zim also left Dib to fend for himself that night but…

The memory versions of them ran up to the same tree, catching their breath as they ran from whatever monsters that lived inside of Dibs mind. He took a moment to look over them while memory Zim moaned about hating Halloween. The Zim beside him scowled as he looked on.

Dib marveled at how young he looked. Absolute baby face. He actually used to look cute in a kid sort of way, whatever happened there? Now he was just lanky and greasy and tired looking all the time. Real Dib looked over at Memory Zim now, bearing his horrible human disguise. It was shocking to see before his own eyes how much Dib had changed and Zim hadn’t.

“Hmm. Look! It’s blinky!”

All four of them turned, the memory and real versions of themselves. Dib could feel the horrible pang of fear that struck him the first time, an echo vibrating through his bones. Even the real Zim beside him had his antenna flattened against his skull.

It happened in a flash. Dib watched as his past self tore the blinking collar off his own neck and shove it onto the past Zim beside him.

“What are you-?”

Past Dib shoved Zim out from behind the tree, leaving him for the monsters that were patrolling the street. “Arr, he’s the one! Arr!”

The weirdest part of watching this unfold again was despite the feeling of guilt, there was a faint feeling of triumph too. And while Zim was swallowed up by one of the beasts, it still echoed within him. He looked sheepishly at his Zim (wait, his Zim?) and swallowed. “Well I mean, we made it out right?” His Zim just looked a little irritated, if not embarrassed by his capture.

“No thanks to you!” His Zim’s eyes were squinting angrily as the scene before them slowly faded to black again. Dib noticed that as it went away, so did that feeling of triumph over his rival. Zim looked a little less angry as well, and gazed up at Dib. It seemed he understood the unspoken question.

“When we experience these memories, you may notice that you also feel certain… emotions that happened as well. Like unbridled fury.” Zim composed himself. Wow, he must have been really angry a minute ago. “Or the overwhelming need to liquify your squishy organs for letting MONSTERS- ugh, never mind.”

“Yeah, I kinda noticed that.” Dib shook his head a little trying to clear it of any residual memories from that night. He would be more than fine if he never had to experience that again.

Zim seemed to prepare himself before talking again. “Well, we might as well work our way forward from here.”

It was Zim’s turn to conjure up a memory now.

___________________________

 

Dib was skulking down the hallway of his new school, making sure to take the longer way to his preferred lunch area. The less students he had to pass on his way there, the better. They all hated him anyway, so why bother making them look at his stupid face and remind them all what a failure of a Membrane he was? For such a brilliant scientist, Dib really couldn’t believe that his dad had fucked up making his own clone so badly.

Middle school was a hard adjustment. It was for most kids, of course, but being the designated weird kid at your school didn’t really make it that much easier. Suddenly you were so much more self aware, more susceptible to judgement. Dib did everything he could to accept the rejection he was already so used to facing from his peers, but it somehow hurt worse now more than ever.

I should have just given them all to the moose. He thought darkly.

If there was anyone who seemed immune to the other middle schoolers cliques and awkwardness, it was Zim.

The last person he wanted to see right now.

Also, the person that was blocking his way to the lunch tables outside no one ever used.

Dib rolled his eyes, making his disdain for the creature known. It was a wide enough hallway, but Zim always did everything to look as big as possible. The alien stood dead center, backlit by the light streaming in from the doors at the end that Dib was trying to get to.

“Just the stinking human I was looking for…” Zim’s voice dragged on low, like a threat. Dib had to fight the urge to roll his eyes a second time.

“I’m really not in the mood for this whole song and dance today.” Dib scowled, shoving his hands deep in the pockets of his trenchcoat. Of course Zim wasn’t letting up though, instead the irken took a step forward.

“This is no terrible Earth dance, Dookie-Dib. It is only a mere warning…” The irken drew closer in a threatening display. Dib continued to be unphased, but Zim pushed on nonetheless.

“You see, it’s already too late. My brilliant plan is already taking place as we speak! I just thought it would only be fair to give you warning so you can say goodbye to your pitiful human familial unit.”

Dib didn’t believe a word of it. If Zim really did have a plan, he would either just be out doing it regardless of what Dib tried to do about it, or at least he would be a lot less vague right now. Even the plans he did carry out were a lot less high stakes than when Zim had first come to Earth, and in the past few weeks Dib hadn’t seen hide nor hair of any sort of epic scheme.

“Really now.” Dib’s voice was painfully unimpressed. “For real, Zim. We only have like half an hour left for lunch and I’d really like to go sit in my normal spot.”

“EH?? Does The Dib no longer care for this wretched planet? Are you finally ready to submit to THE ALMIGHTY ZIM?”

Dib couldn’t stop himself from whipping around to engage Zim. He always knew what buttons to push, somehow. “Y’know, I feel like maybe I wouldn’t be considered such a weirdo if it weren’t for you saying stuff like this to me in public!”

Dib knew full well that he was considered a freak long before Zim even came to Earth. It really didn’t matter what kind of obviously alien things Zim said to him, no one would ever believe it anyway! And somehow, even with the lack of a nose or ears and the green skin, Zim was still considered more “normal” than Dib. How unfair was that?

“B-but DOOM! And horrible nightmares for everyone! And FIRE!” Zim was just trying to keep Dib locked into the conversation even as he turned away from the screaming irken. He walked past and made his way toward the double doors at the end of the hall, but Zim only followed him close by.

“A-and blooood. SO much blood. And Terror! And-”

“ENOUGH, Zim!” Dib snapped. “I told you I don’t want to do this today!” He turned on his heel, a much quicker pace this time to get away from Zim.

There was a small yank on his arm, a clawed hand grabbing him and trying to force Dib to stop. Something gave in Dib then. He spun around and jumped at Zim, finally giving him what he wanted. Zim was expecting this, of course, and quickly locked the two of them in a grapple.

“Yesss. YESSS! Fight with Zim! We battle as sworn rivals!” The glee on Zim’s face only made Dib angrier. Of course he was getting some level of happiness from this. But, in some ways Dib was too. There was something cathartic about fighting Zim.

All he could do was let out an angry yell as Dib finally got the upper hand. Fortunately, another growth spurt was starting to hit him and Dib was easily taller than Zim now. The latter seemed permanently locked at the height of a prepubescent twelve year old. Dib used his newfound size to pin Zim to the ground only for a moment before a black boot swiftly landed a hit on his gut. He cried out, moving off Zim to avoid any other kicks, and just as quickly the irken was also on his feet.

When Dib charged him a second time, Zim was ready. Like a bullfighter, the smaller alien moved out of the way just in time and grabbed Dib by the end of his trenchcoat. Dib easily shrugged it off, not wanting to give Zim the chance to drag him back by it. For the third time, Dib charged and caught Zim by the wrists. He pinned them above Zim’s head and huffed down into the strange alien face. But Zim wasn’t looking back at Dib, and it only took a moment for Dib to follow his strange doll-like eyes to where they were looking.

At Dib’s wrists.

There were fresh marks along the length of his arm, still red and self inflicted. Some older ones as well, scabbing and healing messily. Dib felt a heat rise into his cheeks out of shame. Zim, however, was staring at them with a confused expression.

“Where did you get those?” His tone was demanding, not curious. Dib hated it. He sounded like his dad.

“Shut up!” Dib couldn’t stop himself from yelling as his grip on Zims wrists tightened.

“Have you been fighting with someone else?”

That wasn’t what Dib had expected him to ask. Zim almost sounded… jealous? The grip on his wrists slackened a little. He had his own fair share of scars from Zim, but these were different of course. “It’s nothing, just leave it alone.”

“Is it Tak? Are you fighting with her now?” Zim was looking even more jealous somehow, and Dibs mind reeled. “Or is it some other stinking human smeet that thinks they can just-”

Dib had to stop Zim before he said something else totally weird. “I did it, okay?”

He finally let Zims wrists go and quickly moved to put his coat back on. It was uncomfortable being confronted about this, even if Zim didn’t seem to fully understand the implications. “Can you just drop it? I promise I’m not fighting anyone else. Happy?”

Zim looked a little relieved as he rubbed gently at his own wrist where Dib had been holding them. Just as quickly, the expression was replaced with confusion. “Well that’s stupid, why would you repeatedly cut at your own limbs?”

The question was weirdly innocent, but it still sent a jolt through Dib.

“Were you trying to get something out? You’re surprisingly unskilled at surgery if that’s the case.” Zim placed his hands on his hips condescendingly.

“Jesus, no. I just did it because it made me feel better at the time. It’s really not that big of a deal.” Dib paused a moment. “Also, you better not tell anyone else.”

Zim scowled, disgust curling his upper lip. Dib felt another flush of shame cross his face at the expression, then irritation. What right did an alien have to make him feel bad about his own self loathing?

“You’re faking your own battlescars?” Zim hissed.

Dib slapped a hand to his forehead. It figures that Zim’s species didn’t really deal with this sort of thing, and he would really have no basis for understanding what was really going on with Dib. But the fact that Zim even stood here talking to him about it said something about the irken.

Zim looked up and down the hallway quickly to make sure there were no outside listeners. “Irkens take pride in their scars, worm. It shows our conquests! Does The Dib not have enough from our battles alone?”

Dib’s mouth opened and closed for a moment. He had no idea how to respond to that. Was the concept of “self-hatred” something Zims self absorbed mind could even process?

“Uh. I guess not.”

There was a long uncomfortable pause that dragged on quite a bit longer than Dib would have liked. Honestly, he just wanted this conversation to be over so he could finish lunch period on his own. Zim was looking quite thoughtful though, a finger gracing his green chin as the alien pondered. Dib was about to walk toward the doors again when Zims hand grabbed his wrist tightly.

“Hey!” Dib yelled, annoyed by the sudden manhandling. He tried to pull it out of his grasp, but Zim was locked on tight.

The expression on Zims face was not angry, but it was full of passion as he was for most of his crazy schemes. “I don’t want any more of THIS.” Zim commanded, giving Dib’s arm a slight shake. “From now on, when you want to earn new scars you will come to my base and do battle with Zim!”

This wasn’t an offer. It was a statement. Suddenly, Dib’s wrist was free again and Zim had his back turned to the human as he marched away.

“Okay…. I’ll do that.” The words came out of Dib’s mouth before he could stop them. The whole conversation was just about as bizarre as every conversation the two of them had, but somehow he felt a little bit better. He hadn’t spent a moment of it pitying, which Dib hated the most, and to be truthful the thought of throwing hands with Zim sounded a lot better than what he had been doing before. He didn’t have to hold back with Zim. Every moment of grief, frustration, anger, all of it could come out when they fought. Dib shook his head, still dazed by the whole conversation and finally made his way to the double doors at the end of the hallway.

___________________________

 

They were back in darkness again, the memory finished. Dib swallowed hard as the past emotions cleared from him once more. He glanced over at Zim, curious of what he was thinking now.

Zim didn’t look back until the memory faded completely, Dib could see the reflection of the heavy, inky black carrying the memory away in Zim’s eyes. It was more interesting to watch through Zim, the raspberry ocular implants had small sparkles that the black swirls glossed over as it took the memory back. Dib jumped when Zim’s head turned to look at him fully.

“Zim was… not familiar with such things.” Dib heard Zim say, but he mostly felt the three fingered hand running up the back of his hand to his wrist under his jacket. Dib reflexively wanted to jerk his hand back, getting ready for the usual rush of shame and guilt everyone always brought when they noticed; but he remained still.

His hand brushed over Dib’s remaining scars, the strange feeling of Zim’s velvety skin inspecting his made him shiver.

“It’s uh- it’s fine. We were in like, middle school, I can’t expect a regular, Earth born kid to understand let alone an alien.” Dib said, biting his lip to stop himself from babbling.

‘Earth dwelling’? What the fuck, Dib. Wait, why did he care about embarrassing himself in front of Zim? Ok, this is officially too much, Dib opened his mouth to attempt to move on.

He was cut off by his breath catching as he felt Zim push his forehead against Dib’s arm.

Chapter Text

Dib wanted to ask a lot of things then. What did Zim really think of his scars? Did he understand now? That memory had been one of the first in a chain reaction of events that lead to their strange friendship. Is that why Zim had shown him?

Does Zim actually feel bad for me? He wondered, looking at the alien still nuzzled into his arm. Have I ever felt bad for Zim?

Dibs mind made the connection to the next memory before he could ask, and the world was swirling around them again leaving every word stuck in Dibs throat.

Slowly, the familiar form of Zims base began to take form around them and a still young (but slightly older than the last memory) Dib came into view. He felt Zim’s head lift off his arm, the phantom of his touch reminded Dib he wasn’t really walking into Zim’s base right now.

___________________________

The door was thrown open by a younger Dib, soaked to the bone from the storm outside that cracked a single bolt of lightning behind him. Truly, he has never made a more dramatic entrance to date. His shoes squeaked against Zim’s linoleum floor as he drug them inside, slamming the door shut just as loud as he had opened it. Slowly he entered the light overhead, revealing the frown his face has twisted into.

“I can’t BELIEVE my dad,” Dib announced. He was pretty sure either Zim or Gir were in the room, but if they weren’t then Zim’s computer was always listening.

Turns out Zim was there, face down against the floor with his bottom pressed against the couch as if he had fallen forward and never got up. His arms didn’t seem to have caught him at all. His antennae twitched as Dib yelled. A muffled hhnngg was all Dib got in response.

Oh, ok cool he was in the room. Talking to himself was very much not out of Dib’s wheelhouse but ever since him and Zim became friends he usually used something at his base as a substitute. Gir, Zim, Mr. JudgeyComputer, whatever would lend an ear, willing or not. Knowing someone was at least listening made Dib feel less crazy, even if it was a murder alien/cyborg’s disobediant computer.

“I say ‘no’ to ONE membrane thing”, Dib continued. “‘OH, but you’re a MEMBRANE, Dib, you gotta be a real scientist DIB and do RREEAAL science!’” Dib mocked his father’s voice in one of the worst impressions known to man, a strange accent his father didn’t have thick in his voice.

“Well, maybe you should have MADE me better ‘DAD’! FUCK your goggles!!” Dib yelled, his voice echoed off the metal tubes of the Irken home. He turned and kicked a discarded Poop Cola can across the room with a grunt.

“And then he has the audacity to say ‘WELL,GAZ DOES REAL SCIENCE she's gonna make video games! Helping with hand eye coordination BLEHBLEHBLEH’- MAYBE SHE SHOULD GET SOME FUCKING GOGGLES TOO, FUCK HER GOGGLES!” His voice fluctuated between mimicking the terrible accent and his ranting, cheeks red and hot. His throat was starting to go raw, but he was finally winded.

With a huff, Dib sloshed his still soaked self over to the couch and fell on it heavily. He gave a few beats to let his breathing even out, focusing on the sound of the rain crashing against the window. He let out a slow sigh before properly examining his surroundings, getting a real look at Zim and his… position.

Zim’s face was pressed against the cold lanolem, back and neck bent at concerning angles. His pink tunic slipping down exposing a bit of his spine, knobby vertebrae pressing up against his green skin. He let his eyes follow them to where his leggings began. Dib swore he only looked at Zim’s butt because it was the closest part of him to Dib! It was practically staring at Dib.

It looked nice though, ya know, for an alien freak.

Shut up.

“Hey man, are you ok?” Dib asked, his voice soft, getting another twitch of Zim’s antennae but not much else. A longer groan than before was sighed from the alien on the floor, and Dib watched his short ribcage rise and fall. He seemed to exert a lot of energy just to make that noise.

Dib rolled his eyes and got off the couch, shaking his hands of any water left on them. He gripped Zim’s shoulders and pulled, but was quickly reminded of the irkens strength as he stubbornly resisted Dib’s urges for him to get up.

“That… hrk- can’t be comfortable!” Dib strained, pressing a foot into the floor to try to get more leverage to pull Zim. After a moment he felt Zim give, only to flop lazily to his side, swatting his claws at him like a cat.

“Don’t touch me with your ffFILTHY hands!”

Finally, a reaction from Zim. At least he sounded like his old self. Dib retracted his hands, pausing a moment to try to plan his next move. Slowly he moved his taller figure to lay beside Zim. Last time he saw Zim like this he had ripped open a Florpus Hole and Dib wasn’t sure he could get his dad to help with that right now.

“You know...you can talk to me, right? It's not like I can go spread your secrets around because no one listens to me anyway. Except for you, weirdly enough.” He kept his voice soft, smiling slightly when he saw Zim’s stocks move again. He glanced back at Zim’s face, giant raspberry oculars locked on his and quickly turned to look up at the ceiling. He felt Zim’s eyes boring holes through his head and he swallowed hard to push the feeling away.

“You’re like, one of the only people I can actually talk to. It’s only fair I do that for you too.”

Dib did have Gaz, not like she ever really listened to him. She just happened to sit in the same room as his ranting, sometimes beaming objects at him if he went on too long. Over the past few years, Dib gave up and started coming to Zim to just fight it out; eventually the fighting grew shorter and shorter and before they knew it they were just talking.

Not now though, Zim’s silence was heavy in the room.

“It’s ok if you don’t want to though. We can just lay here.” Dib lay there at Zim’s side for a while, the electric buzz of the alien house and the rain continuing outside the only sounds. Zim’s house was warm, a stark contrast to the storm he walked through to get there and throw a fit. Now here he is on the floor, beside his best friend. It felt like a long time passed before Dib felt his eyes go heavy, a quiet sigh leaving him as he felt himself start to drift off.

“I think I’m the last irken.”

Dib’s eyes shot open, his heart jumping to his throat.

“Wha- how do you know that?!” Dib said, laughing slightly.

He felt the corners of his mouth twitch, fighting a smile. No more Irken Armada, no more threat to the Earth from above, a victory of mankind! Right…?

The sight of his only friend on the floor, officially all alone in the universe said otherwise. He knew Zim wasn’t the most popular Irken, not that Zim would ever admit that, but he strove constantly to please his ‘Tallest’ even if that meant constantly pissing them off. The thought of losing everyone of your species is… kind of unfathomable. He felt whatever glee he had replaced with a crushing weight on his chest.

“I’ve been attempting contact with my kind for… “ Zim paused, squinting his eyes and making the robotic device on his back flash a light pink hue, Dib knew he was trying to search for information. “For about 1,148 days? More than three earth years. And not a single time have I been able to reach them. ANY of them.”

Three years, Zim has been thinking he’s alone for three years and never told him. Dib brought a hand up to his chest to make sure it wasn’t collapsing under this invisible weight, feeling his own heart pounding. Was he just not paying attention? He sat in Zim’s house, bitching all the time about his stupid mundane problems while Zim was trying to find out if he was the last of his species? Yup, Dib was officially lower than garbage, good thing he was on the floor.

“COMPUTER, display my call logs.” Zim barked at the ceiling.

“UGH, fine.” The computer groaned back, the voice seeming to come from every direction.

A panel of the wall pulled back, revealing a screen on a metal arm that blinked to life. Dib adjusted to sit upright to get a better look, but Zim didn’t move. After a moment a log appeared, and even with his rusty Irken Dib could figure out that it was a list of outgoing phone calls. At least 10 going out every day, sometimes more, over three years. It scrolled slow enough for Dib to wrack his brain for what little words he knew in Zim’s language. Not all of the calls went out to the Massive, but other invaders as well. Zim had mentioned them in passing throughout the time Zim knew him, the name Skoodge jumped out, not a single one was answered. Not even Skoodge.

“And I… I’m the one… who..”

Dib turned slowly toward Zim, laying there on the floor staring upward. He’d only seen Zim produce the Irken equivalent of tears twice in his whole time knowing him. He was used to Zim wailing or being dramatic, but it was a rare sight to see whatever fluid Irken made build up in his giant, dark pink eyes. But there it was, rimming the bottom of Zim’s oculars, and slowly dipping down his cheek to the floor. The last thing Zim would want was to be watched right now, and Dib knew that. He layed back down beside Zim, a bit closer than before.

Zim’s voice hitched as he tried to push forward. “I’m the greatest invader!” For some reason he wasn’t sure that was originally the thought Zim was going to tell him. “They couldn’t possibly forget about zim!”

Dib knew The Massive had driven directly into the Florpus Hole Zim himself created, impressive as it was. Dib frowned, remembering the whole event and why he can’t let Zim stay like this for very long. If only the people of Earth knew what he did for them, being best friends with an alien to keep them safe and all.

“The whole Armada… my reason for existing… Gone. All because of…” Zim’s voice was cut off, his gloved hand over his mouth as he muffled his wails.

If it wasn’t for the rain outside, the buzzing electronics and Zim’s own whimpering, Dib was sure he could hear his heart break. Beating Zim was a pass time for him, but seeing Zim broken was horrible. No fight, no passion, no arrogance (ok maybe a little bit), just a small creature curled up on the floor letting out three years worth of pain he carried completely silently. Dib sat up again, he couldn’t just lay there and let Zim suffer- alien or not.

“Zim, can I show you something? It’s a human uh, practice.” Dib said, keeping his voice down. There was still the fear that any sudden movements would send Zim either into a fury or into hiding. Zim sat up, kind of, his front remained slumped over for the most part with his tears hitting the floor.

“Ok, well it’s called a ‘hug’-” Dib began, only to be cut off by Zim’s voice trying to fight through the sobs.

“I know what HUGGING is, Keef would force me in that grapple all the time and-”

Dib sighed, talking over Zim knowing he would just ramble on otherwise. “No, this is different. I want to… we do it for a lot of reasons. Often times it’s to comfort someone.”
Zim finally looked up at him, watery eyes unmoving but Dib felt them scan over him judgmentally. He began to stand, more limp than Dib had ever seen him, only to stop mid-step when his PAK began to flash again.

“You’re clothes.”

Dib looked down at himself, “What about ‘em?”

“You’re still all wet, take it off.”

Zim’s demand made blood rush to Dib’s face, but he was right. While he had mostly dried off he still would burn the hell out of Zim with his clothes like this. He grabbed the back of his shirt, only to pause and motion for Zim to turn around while he did it, he didn’t really want to be stripping in the first place and he certainly wasn’t going to do it for an audience. His shirt hit the ground with a heavy flop, Dib quickly ran his hands over his chest to make sure he was as dry as possible.

“A-Alright, c’mon. Bring it in.” Dib announced, his arms wide for Zim. The alien stopped to inspect him, making Dib’s face even warmer. He couldn’t read Zim’s expressions all the time, but he couldn’t really look him in the eye while Zim inspected his half naked body. Before he had a chance to truly over think what he was doing, Zim had his arms around Dib’s neck.

Shockingly, not strangling the life out of him.

He felt Zim pressing his noseless face into his neck, his skin velvety and smooth. Dib brought his arms around Zim and hugged him tight against him, feeling sobs wrack through the smaller body in his arms. Even if the Armada was gone, Dib would be here.

 

___________________________

As the room faded back to the same unsettling inky darkness, the silence was almost deafening. Neither Zim not Dib had breathed a word as they watched the memory.

There were so many emotions at war within Dib. It was easier to push Zim out of his mind when he was in classes, able to focus on whatever nonsense he had decided was more important than their friendship. But watching them together there, being forced to confront the fact that despite everything… Zim was still the person he was closest to. It made him feel like his stomach was full of rocks. As angry as he still wanted to be, every moment he spent watching them together killed him. He missed it so much, and if Zim felt similarly it made sense why he went through all that effort to build these memory probes.

He stole a glance at Zim, still beside him. His face was so focused, staring into the darkness. The armada was still a sensitive subject to Zim. Skoodge had actually made contact with Zim eventually and they found out the truth.

The Massive and both of the tallests- along with most of the irken fleet- had been completely destroyed in the Florpus Hole. However, there were still irkens out there. They had been scrambling to rebuild their empire, keep control over the planets already conquered, and elect a new tallest. Amidst the chaos, defectives like Zim were left completely forgotten, and even still Zim didn’t entirely forgive them. It was an incredibly bitter subject Dib had avoided when possible. Dib was thankful for Skoodge though. At least Zim wasn’t entirely alone.

It was Dib’s turn to initiate the contact. He nudged Zims arm lightly, drawing his attention back to Dib. Two antenna perked to attention while Dib cleared his throat.

“Shall we?”

“Shall we what.”

Dib couldn’t stop his eyes from rolling. “Check out the next memory?” This whole experience was a whiplash of emotions but Dib was still enjoying himself. When else would he have the chance to relive parts of his life like he was watching a stage play?

“Oh. Right.” Zim seemed to refocus. “ONWARD!”

The world began to shift around them again.

Chapter Text

Zim was the one bringing the memory out this time, and Dib watched as his antenna flicked back and forth. It seemed like he was concentrating quite hard. Large bright eyes were nearly shut, and his face was starting to crinkle in a familiar way that made Dib want to breathe a chuckle- but he held it in for the sake of letting Zim focus. It was as if he was painstakingly trying to remember every detail; down to the color of the leaves. Dib impulsively reached his hand to reassuringly put it on Zim’s shoulder. He jumped a bit in response.

Dib could see the trees around them taking a more defined shape while Zim spat at him. “Don’t distract me!”

“Well hey, they’re supposed to be my memories too right? I’m sure my brain will help you fill it in.”

“My far superior brain remembers more than your feeble human mind could ever DREAM to. That’s why we’re doing this in the first place.” Zim’s face was scrunched again, trying to concentrate through his speech.

Right, all because of that night... It wasn’t so much that he thought Zim was tricking him at this point, more that he found it hard to believe that it happened at all. And if it did, Dib really wanted to have that memory back.

“Though it may be helpful for you to at least pull your weight here.” Zim bugged a single eye out up at Dib. “These shared memories require both of our presence, so I would appreciate you concentrating as well.”

Dib held his hands up in surrender and gave a small sigh. Following Zim’s lead, he let his eyes fall shut for a moment while the world finished forming around them- the edges of it always seeming to bleed into oblivion.

 

___________________________

 

The two best friends walked side by side through the local park nearest to their school. This was of course, the most efficient way of getting home they had agreed upon; according to calculations at least. After all, it may technically be faster for them to go their separate ways just beyond the school gate, and maybe it was true that by cutting through the park they were adding an extra ten minutes or so to both of their walks home, but all in all this was just more efficient! Zim was able to keep a good eye on the locals, Dib was able to keep more of an eye on Zim and… what mattered was it made sense to them.

Winter had just ended, and temperatures were starting to rise as March stretched out before them. The end of their senior year was approaching quickly, and it was a subject Dib avoided at all costs. Even with Zim. Especially with Zim.

He didn’t know what was going to happen after the summer. His dad fully expected him to enroll in college right away, and might have even started sending out applications on Dib’s behalf much to his chagrin. If all else failed, he was pretty sure his dad would force him to work full time at Membrane Labs. He didn’t even bother saying no to Membrane anymore, not after the big fight last time that sent him storming into Zim’s house through the rain. As cool as it had been to have access to the high tech equipment available at the lab, the thought of spending 40+ hours a week there (as opposed to the few days a week after school he already gave them) made him want to hop in Zim’s tiny Voot Cruiser and leave the solar system entirely.

Well, that actually didn’t sound too terrible. The leaving the solar system idea, not the membrane labs thing. It’s something he had fantasized about a lot, but there was no way he and Zim would be able to share such a small space without one of them getting massacred. Especially if GIR came along.

In reality though, it was likely that Dib was going to be leaving for college somewhere. He had no idea where yet, but he was hoping for somewhere that supported his research into the paranormal. If he could get a degree of some sort, and prove to his dad that other people out there who were just as educated believed in Dib…

Well that would never happen.

But hey, maybe Dib could get his degree and when he wasn’t at school he and Zim could improve the Voot, make it bigger! That would be fun!

Dib realized his mind had been wandering when he nearly tripped over Zim, who had stopped right in front of him for some reason. He quickly reached down to steady his friend by grabbing his shoulders. Surprisingly, Zim didn’t immediately shrug out of Dib’s grasp, so Dib let his hands linger a little longer than he should have.

To keep him steady, of course.

“I HATE Earth spring.” Zim shuddered. Dib finally looked up to see what had caused the alien to stop so short.

Bees, of course.

There was a large group of them hovering and pollinating the newly blooming flowers all around the park. Dib couldn’t help but laugh at Zims reaction to them.

“Come on, dude. It’s not like you’re allergic to them.” He gave Zims shoulder a playful shove.

“And do you know what happens to the weakling humans that are?” Zims eyes were wide as they turned to look back at Dib. His expression was that of someone yelling a horror story. “They DIE, Dib.”

“That’s why we have epipens. And hospitals.” Dib put his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt. Zim was also wearing one, but his was a hand-me-down from Dib.

Of course, the irken uniform was ever present under the sweatshirts Zim would rotate through. His boots still remained as well, but Dib was pretty sure that Zim had secretly added lifts into them to appear taller, despite the taboo nature of an Irken doing this. The last time Dib had pointed out that Zim’s heels seemed taller, he screamed for nearly ten minutes about it.

Dib had been more than happy to give his friend the various shirts and sweatshirts that no longer fit him, finally able to quell the rumors around the school that Zim and his family were heartbreakingly poor and could only afford the one outfit. Well, until the rumors that they were dating started, and Zim wearing Dib’s sweatshirts didn’t help with that at all. Luckily Zim was typically unfazed by such rumors, unless they were the type that brought his status as a human into question.

The only reason it bothered Dib to any extent was because it was no secret that Dib had a crush on him. To anyone that paid attention at least. But it’s not like he could act on it, Zim was his best friend after all. Besides, he was an alien allegedly incapable of love. Why would Zim ever make the exception for Dib? Though, Dib was pretty sure that Zim loved GIR, and that on some level he at least loved Dib in a sort of… alliance friendship way or something. Was it really that impossible? His own feelings, and his feelings on his feelings, ended up so complicated that Dib did everything he could to stop the stupid fluttery thing his heart did when Zim was around. The rumors were all wrong, they were JUST allies.

“Yes, because of your inferior, STINKY bodies! If the death bee can crash an Irken Ship, I’m surprised these things haven’t caused your extinction.” Zim’s voice pulled him back into the conversation. Jeez, sometimes he really let his mind wander.

“Actually it’s quite the opposite. It’s kind of a huge problem, actually.” Dib felt like if Zim just sat back and waited long enough, the humans would do all the work for him and destroy themselves.

There was a big rush of movement right in front of the two of them as a flock of pigeons took flight. GIR was sprinting through them full force, and actually managed to catch one in his mouth. He swallowed the bird whole. Dib was horrified. GIR was something you never fully grew used to.

“You just let him do whatever, huh?” Dib asked, only a little judgmentally. GIR usually was there to meet himself and Zim as they made their way through the park. At the end of the trail where they would return to the suburbs, Dib and Zim split ways and GIR would accompany his master home the rest of the way.

This also meant that it was a normal occurrence to find GIR harassing people, rolling in the dirt, or eating live pigeons apparently.

Zim looked on at GIR, proudly. “He’s an Irken made information retrieval unit. Obviously, he’s obtaining information.”

GIR now ran up to a woman with a stroller, tossed her baby out, and took his place demanding he was the baby now.

“That looks more like a domestic to me.”

Zim quickly ran to his henchman and the woman, desperate to control the situation and prove that he was in fact a normal human and this was his normal human dog that just happened to talk. Dib watched from the path, knowing too well it was better to just let Zim handle it and not get involved. Based on the gestures the woman made, he was pretty sure that Zim was being informed of leash laws for the upteenth time.

While given a moments peace, anxiety began to creep up Dib’s throat. They were almost to the end of the park where they would part ways and he was quickly running out of time. Ugh, why did they spend so long talking about all the logical inaccuracies in that movie last night? Dib sighed, readying himself.

All he needed to do was ask Zim to prom. No big deal at all. People went as friends all the time, or in groups, or even alone. But god, Dib really did not want to go alone. Plus, the thought of Zim going with someone else made his insides feel like they were crumpling up. He had a feeling that if he didn’t ask Zim soon, Keef might swoop in.

The problem was he had no idea how the irken would take it. Despite his many years on Earth, Zim was still so alien to the core. He knew about a lot more human customs at this point than Dib gave him credit for, but there was always a subtle nuance that was lost on Zim. The original plan was that Dib would make a big show of asking. He would get balloons, flowers, maybe set up some kind of surprise. A big sign? IRONICALLY, of course. Dib had seen enough of this type of proposal over the last few weeks, he was thinking that maybe Zim would be in on the joke. Gaz had smacked sense into him with a single statement.

“He’s probably gonna think you’re giving him a marriage proposal or something.”

She hadn’t even looked up from her game when she said it, but Dib knew she had a point. Zim could take it the wrong way, and probably be disgusted with Dib. If he was going to do this, he had to play it cool.

When Zim returned finally with GIR in tow, Dib jumped on the opportunity before his moment of bravery was gone.

“I wanted to ask you something, actually-”

Zim quickly cut him off. “No, for the LAST time i’m not letting you try them on! I don’t want your filthy germy hands all over them, that’s half the reason I even wear these!” Zim waved a gloved hand in his face. “You have way too many fingers, anyway.”

“Oh come ON, they’re just gloves! Don’t you have other ones? Besides, I’ll just do this with my fingers.” Dib paired his fingers off in a familiar star trek salute; pinky and ring, middle and pointer. Zim slapped his hand down.

“Your hands are too big! You’ll stretch them!”

“Okay, we can discuss this later. I really don’t think I’ll stretch them but that’s also not what I was going to ask you.” Dib pocketed the argument. Was it really so weird that he wanted to try them on? He just wanted to know how much you could actually feel through those things. Plus, they looked kinda cool- but Dib didn’t want to overinflate Zim’s already massive ego.

Dib cleared his throat to continue before Zim could steer them back to the glove argument. “I actually wanted to ask you to uh, yknow, prom?” Dib prayed that his voice didn’t break as he said it.

Zim’s expression was unreadable as ever, but Dib noticed the lights on his PAK flickering ever slightly. He was probably searching his data for what prom was, or maybe how much of an idiot Dib was. Suddenly feeling stupid, Dib launched into a recovery.

“Y’know, to judge? Retrieve information, make fun of everyone else's inferiority or whatever. Watch some bad dancing? We can just sit there with punch and watch everyone flop around awkwardly like idiots or something. It could be fun! And it’s kind of our last chance to do it, but you probably think it’s dumb since Irken culture doesn’t really do dances and-”

“Yes.”

“C’MON MAN, HERE ME OU- wait, what?” Dib was completely thrown by Zim’s acceptance. He honestly thought he would have to put up more of a fight, but there it was. A ‘yes’,clear as day.

“You will take Zim to your Earth party. I want to see how pathetically it compares to Irken events.”

Dib could hardly believe he actually got a yes, and it wasn’t until Zim quirked an eye at him that Dib realized his mouth was hanging open. He clamped it shut quickly. “Right! Cool! I guess we can just nail down plans later, I’ll just, uh, text you. Cool.” He said again. Why was his face so warm now? He had to get home and tell Gaz.

 

The world seemed to shift. There was no fade to that inky darkness, but the colors swirled and shifted like dye in water to reform a new setting.

 

Dib was found standing along the wall opposite of the punch beside his sister. He and Zim had agreed to come separately and just meet up once they got inside, but there was no sign of him yet. Dib was an expert at spotting Zim in a crowd, not that it was hard, so he was sure that he just wasn’t there yet. Anxiety crept back up his gut at the thought of Zim standing him up. How pathetic he felt in that moment before Gaz gave him an elbow.

Of course she still brought her Game Slave. Dib was starting to think it had somehow become surgically attached to her hand. She hadn’t even dressed up for prom, and Dib wasn’t sure if she had brought a date, friends, or if she really planned on staying on that game the whole night. Why was she even here?

“He’s gonna show up, can you relax already? Your vibes are rancid.” Even while reassuring Dib, Gaz managed to be a little aggressive.

The music was so loud he had to strain to hear her, so he pushed his voice out louder than normal in response. “I know, but what if he doesn’t?”

Gaz shrugged.

“Do I look stupid?” Dib had spent much longer than he wanted to admit to carefully curate his look. He was trying to land somewhere around that “effortlessly looks nice” sort of thing, which ironically took a lot of effort. Now Dib was starting to think he missed the mark and just looked like he was trying way too hard. In an attempt to calm his nerves, he tried to slick back his hair and tame the persistent cowlick inherited from his dad.

Gaz opened one of her eyes a bit wider to give Dib a quick look up and down. “You don’t wanna hear the answer to that.” She said flatly, attention returning to her game.

“Oh god, I should just leave before he sees me-” Dib squirmed, regretting everything suddenly. Zim was either going to walk in and laugh in Dib’s face, or he wasn’t going to show at all. Dib wasn’t sure which was worse.

“Oh stop. You look fine, I was just messing with you. It’s just weird to see you in a suit like… ever. You really need to learn how to relax.” Gaz rolled her eyes.

Dib made himself take a breath, trusting Gaz was right. She was always the type to give it to him straight, so if she said he looked fine then he believed it.

“I think I’m gonna get some fresh air.” Dib said to his sister, who didn’t bother to acknowledge if she had heard him.

It didn’t take him long to get out of the gym, having already had an escape route planned from the moment he got there. Prom was being held in the school itself, the district way too cheap to shell out the money to lock down a different location. Dib didn’t mind, that meant that it didn’t take as long for him to get there. Especially given he didn’t have a ride since Gaz already had permission from their dad to borrow his car for the night. She never mentioned it was for her to also attend prom. Without dressing up. Just to play her game. Dib wondered if she only did it to make sure Dib DIDN’T get it. Instead, he had biked to the school at the risk of sweating into his suit.

Dib had almost wished that he had asked Zim to pick him up in the Voot. Might be a little cramped for both of them in there, but he supposed they could just share the seat. Plus being in a spaceship was just plain cool, no matter how many times he found himself inside one. It was one of those things that he always felt gave him a one up on his peers. How many of them had been to space?

The sky was near dark now, sun nowhere in sight but remnants of it still lighting it up in blue. Some stars started to blink into view while Dib’s breath puffed in front of him. It was actually peaceful in that moment, even as other students filtered in and out of the building. The music continued behind him, muffled and mostly bassy.

“C’mon, Zim…” Dib whispered his pathetic wish to not be stood up at the shooting star that streaked across the twilight sky.

Suddenly, the star got a lot bigger and started screaming in a very familiar voice.

“Oh, jesus!” Dib yelled out, bracing himself for the voot to crash land right in the parking lot. He backed himself up against the building and held his arms up ready for any debris that might spray his direction. The raspy screaming continued as the ship tore through the parking lots asphalt and a trail of destruction marred the “drop-off” zone. Dib doubted the school would pay to replace that.

The ship came to a stop and Dib ran up to it. It certainly wasn’t the first time Zim had a crash landing, but it also wasn’t entirely normal without cause. As he drew closer Dib started to understand why. Inside, he could hear Zim and GIR arguing. Well, as well as one could argue with GIR. After a few moments, Zim quickly gave up and opened the windshield to exit his vehicle. Dib wanted to make a smartass remark about him being parked in a fire-lane, but his voice caught in his throat.

Zim had actually taken the time to dress up. No invader uniform, no old sweatshirt, instead he was adorned in a well fitted pink suit. There were still the gloves, boots with lifts, and his typical wig that came with his terrible human disguise of course. But he looked nice. Nice enough for Dib to completely forget about his snarky remark. As he came closer to Dib, Zim adjusted the wig into its place and dusted the non existent dirt off his suits overcoat. Dib noticed how the vest underneath seemed to shimmer in the light coming from the school.

“Wow, Zim you look… you look really good.” Dib finally choked out. He was genuinely impressed since he had fully expected Zim to pull a Gaz and just show up in his normal outfit. This was a big surprise.

“Of course I do. I would have looked even better if Keef hadn’t talked me out of the dress.” Zim struck a pose of sorts, allowing Dib to bask in his glory. Dib was pretty sure he would have looked just as good in a dress.

Dib realized he was probably staring when Zim relaxed from his pose to stare back. Self consciousness clouded his mind as he realized that Zim was looking, dare he say, hot? Oh God- Dib was too lanky, too greasy, too overdressed and underdressed at the same time. He grew more flustered the longer Zim looked him over and was fully ready for an insult to be slung right at his fat head.

But it never came, Zim didn’t say a word. Instead he just grabbed Dib by the elbow and lead the two of them inside the building.

The shift back inside was a little overwhelming. With a whole crowd of bodies dancing, the air alone was much stuffier and much warmer compared to outside. There were lights flashing, colored beams dancing across the hard floor and reflecting off a cheap looking disco ball in the center. It was easy to catch the glare of the scattered light off his glasses, so Dib tried to keep his focus on the floor as he was dragged further into the crowd. Gaz was still in her spot along the wall, and when Dib managed to look up and spot her she gave a thumbs up. Something about that calmed him down a little, and even though the music was loud enough the Dib could feel it rattle his ribcage, he thought that maybe tonight could still be fun.

Dib wondered if Zim was handling the environment well enough, given his general disgust for humans. The wig he wore might help with muffling the music. When Dib looked back at Zim again he was surprised to see him already moving along to the beat of the song that was ending.

It seemed that Zim had found a spot worthy enough for the two of them in the center of the dancefloor.

“Wait, are we dancing?” Dib hadn’t prepared for this. He hardly thought that Zim would agree to come here in the first place, let alone dance. That hadn’t even been part of his fantasy, he figured they could just hang out for a while, drink some punch…

“Is that not the point of this prom?” Zim’s voice was easy to hear over the music. “I want to experience the proper Human Prom, you will dance with ZIM!”

Dib had no idea how to dance without looking like an idiot, but he didn’t stop Zim from putting his hands on Dib’s waist. The next song started up and Zim quickly fell into rhythm.

YOU WAS AT THE CLUB

Oh god, Dib knew the song. Kind of. He had heard it before at least, but it was the kind of music he judged other people for listening to. Now here he was with Zim in the middle of the crowd while he was nearly touching Dib’s chest and throwing his ass in a circle. Dib’s face grew hot as he watched.

BOTTOMS UP WHEN I FIRST MET YOU

A smile started to creep across his face. Who cared what anyone else thought? He had spent so many years trying to impress people who would never give Dib the chance to prove himself. Now here in front of him was his best friend, an alien, and he wasn’t holding back even a little. He was bouncing weightlessly to the beat, spinning around and locking eyes with Dib. The way he moved was almost hypnotizing, and Dib realized he had never seen Zim actually dance before. There were the few silly jigs they would do, victory dances in a sense, but nothing like this.

COULDN’T GET ENOUGH

Dib let himself laugh, moving to grab Zims hands while he danced. As soon as they were clasped, Zim made a spinning move again, not letting Dib’s hands go. It was easy enough to try and mirror what Zim was doing, and as soon as the irken realized this he moved in closer to guide Dib through the dance.

HAD TO GET YOU STRAIGHT TO MY BEDROOM

They were chest to chest- at least as well as they could be since Dib had about a foot on Zim in height now. It didn’t matter though, because their bodies still seemed to meld together perfectly. It still wasn’t exactly graceful, but it was raw and it was fun. Dib was having fun! And Zim was smiling so widely looking up at Dib he wasn’t sure the alien would be able to open his eyes very far.

“So you’re into this, huh?” Dib yelled as loudly as he could over the music. “Irken’s didn’t strike me as the ‘high school gym party’ type.”

“And humans didn’t strike me as the type to drop such ‘FIRE TRACKS’.” Zim moved back slightly, maybe only a step, throwing his arms above his head and twirling his hands. Dib almost mezmorized as Zim started the most flamboyant vogue Dib has seen in a minute.

Dib barked out a laugh. “Please never say that again.”

“Let me show you how real invaders dance!” Zim proclaimed as they fell back into the song. His gloved hands brought Dibs up to rest on Zim’s shoulders before the three fingered hands went straight to Dib’s chest. The whole dance had started as something just silly and fun for Dib but very quickly turned into something… else. The way Zim moved was so sensual and his touches were so intimate. Had he always been this attractive? Dib swallowed hard, breathing a little harder from the dancing.

Suddenly Zim was turned the other way, grinding back up into Dib. The human couldn’t stop the hand that flew up to slap over his own mouth in shock- and partly to suppress a laugh. If he could go back and tell his 12 year old self that in 6 years the alien he was trying to dissect was grinding up on him at a school dance, and that he LIKED it, well Dib would maybe think he was crazy too.

The grinding didn’t last long though since Zim clearly enjoyed showing off for Dib specifically. When he turned back around the look in Zim’s eyes was so fierce that Zim didn’t have to say “this is for you” outloud. Dib already knew.

Zim was quickly back to touching Dib again, dancing all over him. It was almost like a display to all the other students around them that this was Zim’s territory. Dib was just trying to keep up, completely oblivious to anyone surrounding them. Besides, with Zim being as touchy as he was now, Dib could easily use the excuse of dancing to maybe run his hands across Zim as well. When else would he get an opportunity like this?

He started tentatively, putting his hands back on Zim’s shoulders where they were placed before. Carefully, as they moved to the music together, his hand began to make its way down Zims chest, over his belly, and finding purchase on his hip. The other hand moved over the shoulder and onto Zim’s back, pulling him a little closer. It ran over the metal of his PAK, surprisingly warm to the touch. The lights that glowed from it seemed to grow a little brighter as Zim’s own arms snaked up behind Dib.

Dib wasn’t sure how many songs they ended up dancing to, all of them upbeat and easy enough to dance along to. The air was so warm, the music was so loud, and they were so dangerously close. How far down would Dib have to lean if they kissed here? Would Zim hate it? Would he freak out? Would he kiss him back?

The train of thought was quickly derailed when Torque shoved into the two of them hard enough to knock Dib on his ass. The moment was gone, and the music just seemed too loud again as he got back to his feet, rubbing his tailbone. Zim however, looked PISSED. His teeth were bared at Torque while he screamed something about ‘how dare you interrupt’ and his clawed finger was pointing right at torques face. Dib knew Zim was tough enough to take a punch from the meathead, but that was really something he would rather avoid tonight.

Back on his feet, Dib grabbed Zim by the shoulders. “I’m sure it was just an accident, right?” The look on Torques face said otherwise, and Zim was still yelling over the music.

“It’s called being FRESH, SEXY AND FUN, YOU FLESHSACK.”

Though between the blood rushing in his ears and the music, Dib couldn’t be sure. Other students were turning to look and things were getting awkward fast, so Dib gave in and just picked Zim up under his arm to quickly retreat back to the punch table.

Clearly, Zim didn’t enjoy being picked up like that as now his anger was directed at Dib. He was used to this though, so he let Zim get it out of his system while he assessed his friend.

“Are you okay?” Dib wasn’t sure why he felt worried, Dib and Zim had done far worse to each other. Somehow he justified that was different though, and he really didn’t like when other people touched Zim like that.

“Of course I’m fine! It’s The Torque who is soon to be NOT fine!”

Dib tried to understand why he was so worked up over this. “It was just an accident, he’s an asshole anyway. Don’t worry, he’s probably gonna knock someone up tonight anyway and ruin his whole future.”

Zim didn’t seem to know exactly what Dib meant by that. “Oh, he won’t be knocking anyone up. Zim will be the one knocking Torque up.” Apparently he thought it meant assault.

“I really need you to understand right now that ‘knocking up’ is not a form of combat.” Dib found his hands on both of Zim’s shoulders, not really remembering when he put them there. He knew Zim was a murder alien-cyborg, but something in his horrible, dolleyed contacts made Dib think maybe he was worried about him. There was a beat of silence between the two of them.

IT’S BRITNEY, BITCH

As the next song started, Dib looked around the gym. As fun and… interesting as dancing with Zim had been, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to make his way into the crowd again. Everything about it assaulted his senses, and he found himself craving the night air.

“Let’s get out of here.”

“And do what?” Zims eyes gazed up at Dib. They were round and full of curiosity, and it made Dib’s heart do funny things.

“Literally anything else.”

As they left the Gym, Dib looked over to where Gaz had been before but she was nowhere to be seen. She probably left a long time ago, Gaz always had better sense for those kinds of things. He made a note to look for their dads car in the parking lot when they stepped outside.

The air was as refreshing as Dib had hoped, and he welcomed it on his hot skin.

“Finally, some air!” It was so cold when he breathed it in that it felt sharp in his lungs. So much better.

“Irken clubs have much better ventilation. The ODOR you humans produce is SICKENING.” Zim stayed pretty close to Dib as he spoke.

“Okay, you have to tell me more about Irken clubs. I thought you guys were like all military all the time, that’s like the LAST thing I would expect you guys to have.” Dib was amused by the thought, but the moment was cut short.
“Oh right, your Voot.”

It was still half buried in the asphalt, now with a few sad looking traffic cones surrounding it. It was a rather pathetic display.

“Is anyone gonna realize this is an alien spaceship?” Dib mused. Probably not , he thought back bitterly to himself.

“Nonsense, if anyone asks, I'll just tell them it’s one of those fancy underground limos. The ones that tunnel and leave large trails of broken parking lot.” Zim put his hands on his hips proudly.

“Foolproof.” Dib said, annoyed that Zims excuse would probably work. “Well, can you get it to fly tonight?”

There was a pause before Zim moved to open the windshield of the voot. GIR was shockingly still there, watching the Scary Monkey Show on the large display screen. Behind it, there was some kind of progress bar.

“It looks like it’s going to be running self repairs well into the night. Unfortunately, I will just have to come back for it. It wouldn’t be the first time…” Zim’s lower eye seemed to twitch as he seemed to get lost in memory.

“I took my bike here, we can use that for now.” At this point Dib just wanted to get further away from the school, but he wasn’t ready to go home yet.
“Or I can just take you home if you want.” He didn’t want to force Zim into hanging out longer if he didn’t want to, but Dib hoped he would stick around.

“I said I wanted the full Human Prom experience, Dib-Thing. I expect you have more to show me?”

Dib couldn’t stop his smile. “Yeah, c’mon.”

The bike was only built for one person, but Zim was light and could easily stand on the two pegs that came out of the rear wheels. He clung to Dib for support, and as they rode down the street seemed to nuzzle his face into Dibs back. It might have just been to shield Zim’s face from the cold wind but that didn’t stop his gut from doing a flip. Dib took them farther than he had originally planned just because he liked the feeling of Zim’s arms wrapped around his waist.

They came to a slow over a pedestrian bridge bathed in moonlight that crossed over a small river. It was far enough away from the rest of the city and suburban areas that Dib could see the stars far more clearly with just the naked eye. Plus, being over the water brought them out from the cover of the trees so they had a clear sky.

“This is one of the best spots to see stars here.” Dib said, coming to a complete stop. “I mean, nothing really beats a telescope but it’s still kinda neat to be able to just stand here and see them like this.”

Zim carefully removed his hands from Dib, much to the humans disappointment, and stepped off the bike so he could lean on the railing. Following his motion, Dib leaned on the railing beside him.

“I’m sure you know more about space than anyone else here on Earth, but I’m not sure how much you know about our constellations.” It was probably silly to educate a space conquering alien on space, but ultimately this was actually something more unique to the Earth.

“For a long time, these were never just stars or other planet systems to us. They were actually ways for us to tell stories.”

Zim gave Dib a sideways glance. “So primitive…” He muttered. But he wasn’t shutting down Dib completely, so he continued.

“For instance,” Dib leaned down over Zim now, lining up their faces side by side so he could accurately point to the right cluster. “See that there?”

He could feel Zim shiver beneath his touch as he nodded. It was pretty cold out, after all. “Of course I see it, my eyes are far better than yours.”

“That’s the Big Dipper. Or Ursa Major, the big bear.” Dib pulled back so he could watch Zim take in the information. His fake eyes were scanning the sky, locked in on the specific star cluster that Dib had just pointed out. If only he took out those contacts. Dib longed to see the way the night sky reflected in Zim’s berry eyes.

“Do you have any moose constellations?” Zim’s eyes were full of wonder and his skin was bathed with a milky wash in the moonlight. Dib felt like his brain stopped working.

“.. I don’t know.” He said, completely distracted by how breathtaking Zim looked. “I’ll uh… look into it.” He knew he was staring, but was that new for them?

“Earth’s moon is pathetically small.”

Dib finally stopped staring at Zim to get a look at the moon. It was full, and hung low enough in the sky that it actually looked bigger than normal.

“You don’t even have any slaves or military up there, it’s just a useless rock taking up valuable spaceship driving space.”

Maybe it was how stupid Zim sounded, or maybe it was the way his lip curled up in disgust as he complained about the moon, but Dib ached to touch him again. His arm mindlessly reached out and brushed their hands together.

“What are you doing?”

Dib yanked his hand back like he had touched a burning stove. Scrambling, he was desperate to come up with an excuse that might get him where he wanted.
“I was just thinking about how you said you wanted the WHOLE Prom experience, right?”

Zim seemed to perk up at that. “Go on…”

“Well I was just thinking how we didn’t really get the chance to slow dance. That’s like, a BIG deal for Prom.” Dib fumbled with his pocket, pulling out his phone. “So I thought we could just do it here instead?”

“But we did plenty of dancing in the Prom. What is significant about a SLOW dance? It sounds boring!” Of course Zim was challenging him, it was Zim.

“Well there’s not quite as much uh, movement. Compared to what you were doing at least. Here, let me just show you.” Dib quickly selected a song and set the phone along the railing of the bridge.

Zim allowed Dib to pull him in close and position their arms as needed; Dibs hands on Zims hips and Zim’s hands on Dibs shoulders. The song was far more gentle than anything they had heard back at the school, and it was an easy rhythm to move to. Ever slowly, the two of them spun on the bridge under the stars. Dib noticed the Zim was trembling a little.

“Are you cold?” Dib never really knew Zim to be overly hot or overly cold, but there was no denying the night air was pretty fridged.

“I don’t have my invader suit.” Oh, well that made sense. Of course his alien clothes kept him hot or cold or whatever. Now here he was in human clothing freezing his ass off because Dib wanted to keep him out late.

“Shit, here.” He stopped their dance just long enough to take off his suits coat and drape it over Zims shoulders, hoping it would keep him a bit warmer. Without missing a beat, Dib drew them back into the slowdance, this time holding Zim a little closer. For the sake of keeping him warm, of course.

“This is just like a musical hug.” Zim said, muffled in Dib’s chest. He only responded with a small laugh.

Too soon, the song ended and they had stopped spinning. Alone on the bridge, they remained in their holding position until Zim finally drew his head back to look up at Dib.

He couldn’t stop himself even if he wanted to. In the heat of the moment, Dib had leaned in and placed a kiss right on Zims left cheek. It was only pressed their for a moment, but as he held Zim in his arms he could feel the Irken go stiff with shock. When Dib pulled back, Zim wasn’t even looking at him anymore. It really felt like his heart was going to hammer itself right out of his chest.

Finally, Zim looked up at Dib again.

“EW, was that your MOUTH?”

The panic set in right away, and Dib removed his arms from zim in an instant. Zim’s own arms fell limp at his sides as Dib took a step backward, desperately looking for any words to explain himself. Maybe he could jump off the bridge and make a quick escape down the river?

“Stop doing that human panicky-thingy and explain yourself!” There was a pinkness rising in Zim’s cheeks as he glared down the human.

God, he really hung around Zim way too much. He didn’t even have to babble for Zim to clock his freakout. Zim knew about Dib’s impulsive nature. Zim knew when Dib was quiet it was worse than him babbling. He could see through Dib like an open window.

“It was a kiss.” Dib said stiffly. “H-humans do it to express… uh… close friendship!”

Dib could see the soft glow from Zim's pak start to glow and blink. Was he testing Dib? Well, it’s not like he was LYING… not entirely at least. He pushed forward, trying to explain.

“You just looked really… I dunno, beautiful just now.”

Zims eyes narrowed a moment, then his whole expression changed to something much more proud.
“Yes, yes. Bask in Zim’s beauty. You’re welcome. However,” Zim stepped forward, closing the space between them once more. Gloved hands snaked their way back up Dib’s chest and onto his face, ever so gently turning it just enough so there was plenty of room for when Zim rose on his tiptoes.

It was so soft. The most tender thing that Zim had ever done for Dib was this careful kiss on his cheek in return, and if Dib dropped dead right then and there he would be happy.

Zim released Dib and cleared his throat. “You look much less disgusting than usual.”

Dib let out a small huff of amusement, goofy grin plastered across his face. “Thanks?”

“Your human formals make your head look almost normal sized as well.” That was probably as close to a compliment Dib was gonna get from Zim tonight, but it still counted.

Maybe Dib would just have to live with this stupid crush forever, but tonight made it all seem worth it at least. Without another word, the two of them returned to the railing to watch the stars and the river- Zim a little more cautiously.

 

___________________________

 

Returned to the darkness, Dib pressed his hand to his chest. His heart was beating just as fast as it was back then. It was almost dizzying. The whole night was hardly your typical prom experience; going with your best friend who happens to be an alien, dry humping in public then kissing him on a bridge after Torque all but assaulted them in the gym.

Stealing a glance at Zim, Dib knew he was also feeling something. It was not an expression he saw often, even Zims smiles were wicked and sharp and toothy- but this was something so soft. Nostalgic, even. God, Dib wanted to reach out and touch him there, even just brush hands with him. It really felt like they were unstuck from time here, and it was hard to remember why he had been so angry with Zim when he showed up in his dorm in the first place.

Dib thought about the kiss again, it was pure stupid teenage impulse. But Zim had returned it. His lips were soft, warm, nothing like he had expected from an alien bred for murder and invasion. Maybe irkens weren’t biologically so violent? Maybe it was something forced or enhanced into them… maybe they were soft by nature? Or maybe Zim was just different. The spot Zim had left his kiss burned on his cheek even still, the ghost of it haunting him. Dib wanted to see that softness in Zim again.

He turned fully to Zim and grabbed his shoulder. Just as he had opened his mouth to speak, Zim’s hand quickly moved over Dib’s mouth while the other one pointed forward. The probes must be forming a new memory.

Dib’s heart began to drop as Bloaties Pizza slowly came into view. He tightened his grip on Zim’s shoulder and waited for the colors to arrange so they could look on.

Chapter Text

The world began to paint an image of Bloaty’s Pizza Hog, slowly filling in a dense crowd of people around the doors. The image stopped briefly, a paint brush stuck mid-stroke as Dib clenched his eyes tightly. He pushed the memory as far from his mind as possible with all the energy he had.

“Zim,” Dib sighed. “We don’t have to watch this.”

Dib opened one eye to look at Zim, his face was tense and focused forward. The stocks on top of Zim’s head pointed upward, though the one closest to Dib twitched slightly as he spoke.

“There’s no use fighting it now. We’re already here, stop being a coward.” Zim’s voice was cold, Dib knew Zim was fighting something back. In his voice he could hear the fear nestled in the back of his throat. Dib’s eyes shot to inspect his PAK, flashing fast and unsteady.

“I’m sure if we tried to think of something else togeth-” Dib started, keeping his voice soft, but Zim’s voice cut through him.

“It’s already in our minds, and you can hardly censor your words- let alone your thoughts.”

Dib frowned- not from taking offense, but because he knew what was coming. He knew what Zim was about to put himself through; and for what? To jog Dib’s stupid memory? He was already on Zim’s side, why did he want to see this? Dib felt his jaw clench as Zim shoved Dib’s hand off his shoulder. He had forgotten it was there but already missed the grounding feeling of something solid in his hand.

“I’m an Irken soldier, I can handle myself. Unlike you and your fellow humans, I don’t get lost in your squishy emotions.”

Dib shook his head in disbelief, he knew this was a lie. He’s seen Zim do just that plenty of times. He did that when he made the Florpus, hell, they just WATCHED him do it a few moments ago. Zim wanted to feel strong, he always did. Dib started to open his mouth to argue again but his attention was pulled away by the memory starting to take shape again.

 

___________________________

 

It was summer time, and the opening of the city’s 78th Bloaty’s Pizza Hog. Dib was walking beside Gaz who had given him the ultimatum; die, or accompany her to Bloaty’s. Of course, Membrane had insisted that Dib go along with her despite Gaz being far more physically capable than her brother if she needed to beat someone’s ass. He didn’t mind though, he might not be as into pizza as Gaz but he was pretty hungry. He also genuinely liked hanging out with Gaz, even if she might threaten to fill his head with various weezles or straight up disappear sometimes when she got bored of him. At the end of the day, she was the only person who really got him. Other than Zim of course. Gaz would put up with Dib, but he wasn’t sure she could ever listen to him like Zim could.

Dib was pulled out of his thoughts when he nearly tripped over a rogue child, finally registering how big the crowd was. There were so many Bloaty’s in town at this point, he really couldn’t believe that every single grand opening got this much business. He was a bit more surprised parents were still bringing their kids to these things. At least from what he had heard on the news, he was pretty sure the number of casualties was in the triple digits by now. The ground outside had been clearly marked with the intention of a line, but it seemed like everyone had decided to gather right up at the maw of the restaurant instead. Gaz yanked on Dib’s trench coat collar to pull him further into the crowd.

“They’re going to run out of pizza by the time we get to the front at your pace, DIB.”

Gaz said his name with a particular level of disgust that only his younger sister could without sparking offense in him. They pushed through the gathering of sheeple to the slaughter, only stopping once Gaz couldn’t force her weight through a seemingly impenetrable wall of humans.

“GIR!”

 

A familiar voice caused Dib’s head to almost snap 180 degrees. He really couldn’t believe he didn’t spot Zim sooner. He was holding GIR above his head, the small robot was covered with his laughably bad dog suit and flailing his arms. Giving his best puppy-dog eyes to his sister, which was admittedly terrible, Dib turned back to Gaz for approval. With a growl, she waved him off in Zim’s direction. Awesome! Dib brushed past a few particularly foul smelling patrons to reach his alien.

“I didn’t think you could eat human food.” He taunted Zim playfully.

Zim turned toward Dib, his ‘dog’ still above his head. Clearly Zim had been here for a while, or maybe he had just been chasing GIR all the way there. That same wig was crooked on his head, there were some mysterious stains on Zim’s outfit- which was one of Dib’s old knit sweaters he fit when he was younger, and large rings hid under his alien’s horrible contacts.

“GIR demanded I bring him here, but there’s so many DISGUSTING, STICKY children at this human pizza event.” Zim said through gritted teeth, only parting them to shout his favorite insults to call mankind.

Dib couldn’t fight his smile as he kneeled down, gently adjusting Zim’s wig to look slightly more normal. Running his hand down the side of his face to wipe a smudge of something off Zim’s cheek, he thought he felt Zim press into his hand. The touch was too brief before Dib’s hand was already retracted. Zim eyed Dib for a moment before he fully realized what he was doing, slowly lowering Gir to the ground and giving him a stern squint. Gir moo’d in response.

The reunion was cut short as a deafening horn sounded, followed by the unspeakably loud noise of metallic whirring while the large steel bars on the doors of the Pizza Hog were being lifted. Dib felt the sound more than heard it, and also felt about a million people crushing him on their way inside. Instinctively, he reached forward for Zim who was swiftly being swallowed up by the mass of bodies. Uselessly Dib called out for him, but there was no hearing it after the sound barrier had shattered by everyone’s excited hollering. Dib’s ribs were crushed by a particularly large man pushing past him, his ankle twisted by some demon offspring tunneling through, and his head thoroughly bonked as he finally lost his footing and fell to the ground. Finally, he was finally able to take a full breath when the crowd dispersed beyond the threshold.

Chaos was an understatement. Whoever built this place hardly had a shit to give about safety regulations, let alone tasteful design. The colors were a dull purple, green and grey in dizzying repeating patterns across the carpet. No doubt to hide the soon to be vomit and probably blood stains that were going to coat this restaurant. The music was loud, a repeating maybe 8 seconds of audio that sounded like it was written by a beaten circus bear on 4 keys. A few ‘robots’ wheeled around on wobbling tires, flopping back and forth every time they came to a stop to spew some audio at a child. The speakers were muffled by the fursuits, seams more than visible, strings holding them together already snapping to reveal the metal body. Dib was pretty sure he heard ‘HU-YUCK, welcome to pa-pa-pa-pa PIZZA PARADISE’ in what sounded like Microsoft Sam. He debated briefly if this place was made with a $15 or $20 dollar budget.

Dib walked in a bit further, remembering through the overwhelming atmosphere that he had lost not just Zim, but Gaz too. A rush of sudden brotherly emotions washed over him and he found himself pushing through a nearby crowd calling for Gaz. While bobbing and weaving through the flurry of patrons, Dib rammed hard into a play structure. The plastic rattled ominously in response just before a piece of the twisty slide fell hard to the ground. A few children who became trapped beneath squealed with joy, and all Dib could do was rub his forehead and look up. The plastic tower seemed impossibly tall and it had a hole cut through the ceiling for the “Super Hog Slide”. He squinted harder and somewhere in the cloud layer he saw Gaz.

“GAZ- ARE YOU OK?!” Dib called, straining his bruised ribs to yell up at his baby sister.

She peered down over her pizza, and before Dib could register what she was doing he felt a sloppy, greasy pizza slice flop hard against his face.

“I GOT YOU ONE.” She shouted back, clearly bitter he ditched her to go find Zim. Well guess what? He was about to do it again. He let the pizza slowly give into gravity as it seeped down Dib’s face and fell with a stomach turning splotch against the carpet. In a flash, it was greedily snatched up by a suspiciously rat-looking child that ran back into the ball pit, just past a particularly lengthy laminated paper that listed how Bloaty’s Pizza Hog was not responsible for a list of possible bodily harm. Was that the bubonic plague listed?

Dib ran his hand over his face and whipped the grease off his palm, hoping this wouldn’t give him a new round of acne. There was no time to worry about that though, he had to find Zim. In his fit of familial concern, he briefly forgot that Gaz was a vengeful demon who could probably bite the heads off of everyone here. Brief lapse of judgement.

Dib stepped over some unconscious patrons toward the largest gathering in the building. There was no mistaking the tell-tale rip snort of… him. Dib had to stand on a table (not bothering to apologize to the family below him devouring a mound of lardy pizza) just to see the stage everyone grouped around. The red curtain parted, revealing Bloaty himself. Dib cringed slightly at the buckling stage, but somehow he could smell the rancid odor over the pungent stink of cheese, grease, and whatever “meat” they used for food. The man in the pig suit was a giant; pouring every which direction over the stage. Bloaty’s small purple jacket was stretched to its limits. Dib thought he saw some pepperoni pieces shoving their way through the straining zipper, but almost as soon as the monster appeared, the youth of the horde jumped on stage. The whole congregation seemed to lunge forward in a terrifying living tsunami that swallowed the swine.

There were no words. It was… horrifying. Dib was fairly certain that one of the smaller children that had been clutching to Bloaty’s ever expanding gut was just sucked in to it somehow- as if the flesh itself could eat and finally surpassed the never satisfied mouth. Children were tearing at the seams like the icon was just a living pinata, desperate to find any remnants of “extra special pizza” inside the suit. There were less gruesome scenes pictured in horror movies, Dib was sure of it.

This was turning into a fight for survival.

Maybe he was being dramatic, but a real wave of fear came over Dib. If he wasn’t able to locate the irken quickly, things could take a very bad turn very quickly. And as awful as these other humans were being, blindly slaves to a capitalist pig, they needed someone like Dib to protect them. And if Zim felt cornered at any point, oh boy.

Growing more desperate, Dib leapt from the table he stood on to a nearby support beam. It was filled with old memorabilia from other Bloaty’s chains in town, framed shirts, a signed guitar and some other crap. Dib easily knocked it all out of his way so he could shimmy up a little higher and get a vantage point. Finding a tiny green alien shouldn’t be so hard, should it? The crowd below him moved like a human ocean, waves peaking near Bloaty- who was now wailing in pain.

It’s the glow that catches his eye, finally; Zim’s PAK.

Dib gasped as he spotted his friend, haunched over something on the floor with his PAK flashing wild patterns he had never seen before. No wonder he couldn’t find Zim, he was basically curled up on the fucking floor!

Suddenly any thought of protecting the people from Zim’s potential outburst was gone from Dib’s mind. Something happened, and now he wanted to be the one to tear apart every mindless piece of shit in this hell of a Pizza Place. Hero mode took over, and Dib leapt to the crowd in the fastest possible way to Zim- which might have been using a few peoples heads as stepping stones.

Finally he was in front of him now, standing in a way that shielded his tiny alien from any more assailants. Zim looked so small on the floor of this crowd with his PAK still flashing violently. From where he stood Dib couldn’t see any injuries, but there was no way of being sure until Zim turned to face him. One thing was clear, Zim was in a full blown panic.

Slowly and carefully, Dib reached a hand out to touch Zim’s shoulder. The moment it made contact, Zim made a terrible hissing noise and lashed out at the hand, cutting Dib’s palm in the process.

Dib only let himself take one step back, not wanting to lose Zim again but also not wanting to be slashed open by the panicking irken. He clutched his bleeding hand in the other, a question half formed on his lips before he saw what Zim had been hunched over the whole time.

GIR.

The tiny robot was in pieces, more so than he usually ended up at least. Dib had seen GIR “self destruct” in a sense a handful of times, but never like this. Zim was holding the green dog suit as it lay limp in his arms, and Dib wondered if GIR had stripped naked out of excitement. All across the puke-inducing carpet was scattered the pieces that made GIR who he was. Bolts, plates of metal, a paperclip that Dib wasn’t sure was actually a part of GIR or not.

Bleeding hand forgotten, Dib carefully looked back at Zim. No wonder he was about to have a breakdown and probably try to nuke the place. Dib couldn’t let that happen while his sister was still inside, so he had to calm his friend down.

Zim took ragged rough breaths. Dib could tell by the way his whole body seemed to move with every gasp of breath even with the noise totally lost in the crowd. He was just staring unseeingly down at his broken henchman with violently shaking shoulders. The lights coming from his PAK were still flashing dangerously fast. Dib had to act now.

“Zim. ZIM!” Dib was still trying to stand protectively, a large man threatening to bump into them. Dib thought he might be able to kick him away before Zim administered his PAK legs through the strangers stomach.

“Zim, we have to grab what we can and get him out of here!” Dib was screaming. He hated how loud it was here, and he genuinely couldn’t tell if the alien could hear him or not. Either way, Zim wasn’t moving and looked a lot like a ticking time bomb.

There really wasn’t time for this, so Dib took action. He dropped to one knee and began picking up anything he could get his hands on. One of the teal colored shoulder joints threatened to roll away so he grabbed at that first. Suddenly, Dib was being pushed violently backward. Worried of losing the piece, he kept it clutched tightly in his hands. It hurt as Dib was tossed back into the crowd, bouncing off a weirdly sturdy old woman. Looking up, it was Zim who had pushed him.

He looked almost feral, standing over the remainder of GIR’s pieces like a mother bear. Even with the fake looking contacts in, Zim’s eyes bugged out dangerously- but at least he was actually looking at Dib now. The strange thin tongue snaked out of Zim’s mouth for just a moment, dragging across his bared teeth in a display before he finally spoke to Dib.

“DON’T YOU TOUCH HIM! HE IS NOT A PRIMITIVE EARTH ROBOT, GIR IS THE FINEST IRKEN TECHNOLOGY!!!”

Zim’s voice was the only one that could cut through the noise of the crowd, and he was absolutely losing it as he screamed at Dib. Even Dib knew that couldn’t be true. GIR was impressive in… ways, but he was about as faulty as they came. About as faulty as Zim was, he supposed. Dib has seen enough irken technology by this point to know that GIR was far from the finest- but that didn’t matter to Zim. GIR was more than just a robot to him.

And Dib wasn’t gonna let Zim stop him from helping fix the little guy.

“Then calm down and start grabbing pieces!! I’m trying to help you!” Dib yelled as loudly as he could, voice quickly straining from the effort.

Zim seemed to snap out of it then, his offensive stance quickly lowered. Seeing him back down, Dib launched himself forward once more and started grabbing more pieces. This one looked like it was probably GIR’s tiny little hand. Gloved hands were moving even quicker than Dib’s; grabbing the precious motherboard, the part that looked like it was his eye, some other internal wiring…

They shoved everything they could inside the doggysuit. At least that would be able to hold the parts until they got back to Zim’s base, especially the smaller pieces. Zim cradled the suit in his arms like a baby, obviously terrified of anyone else in the establishment knocking it out of his hands.

In a motion, Dib swept Zim into his own arms princess style. Tonight, he was going to be Zim’s knight in shining armor.

Luckily, Zim was too focused on keeping GIR safe to fight Dib on being carried, which at least made it a little easier. Soon after lifting him off the ground, Dib thought he might get another scratch from the irken.

The way back to the entrance of Bloaty’s was a battle. Dib let out a war cry as he leapt back up on to the same dining table he had stood on before. If there was any hope they would make it out of here alive, this was the only way. Someone below him groaned up at them.

“Heyyy! We paid thirty dollars for this!” It was a small family, staring up at Dib angrily. He was standing smack in the middle of their taco pizza leaving large boot prints.

“You paid too much for this crap anyway.” Dib called, leaping from their table to the next. They didn’t seem to like that, and followed behind him with a squeal that sounded more hog-like than human.

It continued that way, Dib leaping over tables, crushing peoples food, and carrying on with Zim curled up in his arms as the patrons of the building crawled behind him crazed as ever. Dib thought he might have a heart attack, the way they screamed and lashed out at his ankles. The row of tables he had been using was quickly coming to an end though, and he would have to find another way through the crowd before the mob caught up to him.

“I could really use your PAK legs right about now!” Dib said uneasily. Zim was still curling around GIR protectively, but looked up in time to form a quick plan.

The metal legs shot out from Zim’s back and dug themselves into their surroundings. They had twisted around enough that Zim still held GIR in his suit against his own belly while Dib clung to Zim’s back. The position was not the most preferred, since Dib’s bruised ribs had to deal with the bases of the metal spider legs crashing into them, but it was a lot better than being eaten alive by pizza crazed zombies.

With a jump, the three of them were able to leap over the crowd and grasp a different support beam. Zim continued this way, crawling over people, play structures, and pizza pigs. They were finally out of the bulk of the crowd, and Zim returned the metal legs to their place allowing Dib to carry him again. Homefree!

Until the man from the first family slid in front of them, blocking Dib’s path.

“Yer not goin’ anywhere till you replace our PIZZAAAAA!!!” The dad was literally frothing at the mouth, big dribbles of white foam staining the awful carpet.

There was a loud SMACK as a huge slice of pizza crashed into the mans face, knocking him unconscious.

“Gaz!” Dib turned to look over his shoulder in amazement. His sister still sat atop her throne of the impossibly large play structure, silently giving him a thumbs up.

He had the coolest sister.

Dib barely had a second to appreciate the greaseless air outside as they broke free.
It was easy enough to locate the Voot Zim had flown to the joint, as it was large and purple and weirdly shaped. He didn’t even disguise it anymore, ever since he and Dib had cleverly painted the Membrane Labs logo on it after the prom night crash. ‘It’s just a prototype for a new flying car’, they would tell people. It made enough sense, since Dib was the professor's son and Zim was his best friend. But as Dib walked up to it, it didn’t seem as big to him anymore. It has actually been quite a while since he had ridden in this thing, and it was intended as a one man ship for Zim. Zim, who was still about the height of a twelve year old.

There wasn’t time to argue about seating arrangements, so Dib just climbed inside still holding Zim and sat the alien in his lap. Of course, he still had the gall to try and argue anyway.

“Hey wait, you get on the floor!” Zim demanded.

“I’m not getting on the floor Zim, there’s no room down there anyway. Just drive already!” Dib already knew there was no way Zim would let him control the voot.

He didn’t have to tell him twice. In an instant, the ship was in the air and rocketing out of the downtown part of the city. Dib was pushed back in his seat from the force, unable to even move his head forward. He was really glad he ended up in the seat instead of the floor.

Zim sat between Dib’s legs, which were spread out as far as they could go in the cramped space. The force pushed him back as well, and he was flush against Dib’s torso while the city lights grew smaller and more distant around them. Zim only drove with one hand, the other still cradling GIR’s lifeless form.

He finally finished their ascent, and made a clear dive for Zim’s base further out in the suburbs. With no kind of seat belts to hold Dib in place, if they were to crash there was a real chance he could die. Maybe he should remind Zim of that…

“Calm down, everything's gonna be fine.” It was easy to speak softly with Zim’s head already so close to his mouth. “We’re gonna fix this.”

“I’M going to fix this.” Zim’s voice trembled, almost like GIR getting hurt had been his fault, and he was the only one who could make it right.

“He’s losing data by the minute. If I don’t get us there quickly-” Zim’s voice was breaking.

“Just focus on getting us home.” Dib reassured. This was one step at a time, and step one was getting there alive. “I can hold him…”

Zim looked like he wanted to argue, as always, but said nothing as Dib slipped his arms around Zim to grasp GIR. Instead, he focused on steering the voot and completing their dive back toward his base.

Dib took the moment of silence to inspect GIR’s little body. All his parts were shoved inside the green suit and he tried not to stain it with blood from his still bleeding hand. Well, it was stained all over anyway so what was a little more blood to GIR? Dib unzipped the front, peering inside at the lifeless silver metal.

The head cavity was stuffed with pizza, crust and toppings bubbled through the sockets where they eyes should go. Dib pulled out the mushy slice and- oh GOD was that a childs hand? Delicately, he moved it aside to deal with later. Blood on the costume was really no problem at all, he supposed.

“The grease is what’s going to be the biggest problem.” Zim had a death grip on the steering system, still visibly shaking. At least his PAK wasn’t flashing as badly as it had been back inside Bloaty’s. Dib looked down into the suit again, spotting one of GIR’s eye implants. It was completely greyed out, no sign of the normal blue that it glowed.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“He might forget me.” Zim said, coldly. “Or he stay deactivated. For good.”

Dib cursed to himself. He had seen Zim pretty upset before, but he had never seen him this upset over something besides himself. GIR meant the world to Zim, he was one of the few positive things from Irk that Zim still had. Dib still couldn’t believe the lengths Zim would go to just for the sake of making his little insane robot happy. GIR was one of the main reasons that Dib even had hope for him and Zim becoming friends in the first place- proof that irkens really could love.

“I’m not gonna let that happen.” Dib meant it. He didn’t care what he had to do to make it happen but he knew he would. He was Membranes son, after all.

Precious time ticking away, the voot finally landed in the attic of Zim’s strange base. Nothing more was said between the two as they made their way downstairs and deep in the depths of the underground base. Riding the elevator was tense, and Dib was certain he heard Zim sniffle. He didn’t make a motion to indicate that he noticed for the aliens sake, but Dib’s body filled with more determination than ever at the sound.

Finally, they exited into the main lab. Giant mechanical arms that seemed to come from the nest of pipes and wires high above them extended downward to remove Zim’s disguise as he marched forward, barking at the computer the whole time.

“COMPUTER, retrieve GIR’s codes!”

Oh good, maybe Zim had some kind of backup in his system. Even still, Dib knew well that sometimes even backup’s just weren’t enough. Zim approached a metal rolling table and dumped GIR out onto it. The dog suit was discarded on the floor by his feet. A thick looking cable descended from the ceiling above him, and he quickly plugged what looked like part of the motherboard and some other parts into it.

Behind him, a huge screen blinked to life and began displaying the codes Zim had asked for in Irken. Hundreds and hundreds of functions were scrolling across, and even though Dib wasn’t totally fluent in Irken, there were a few common phrases and words he could recognize. Like “ERROR” and “CORRUPTED” . Those were displayed quite a lot.

Quickly, Dib threw his coat to the floor preparing to get to work.

“First things first, we have to get all the gunk out of him. I’m pretty sure there’s even bits of some kid in there.” His brows were knit as Dib placed his hands on his hips, trying to assess where to start.

“Then, DO IT!” There was zero patience in Zim’s voice as he took station at the computer, typing madly. It looked like Zim was trying to save anything that wasn’t corrupted yet in a different backup. Dib didn’t argue with him and started digging out the pizza as quickly as possible.

The bigger chunks were easier, but there was a lot of melted cheese and sauce that coated just about everything. Boy, he sure hoped that was pizza sauce there. Grease was burning the cut on his hand, but it was easy enough to ignore and just keep working. Somehow, by the time he cleared most of it out there was about three times GIR’s body mass in a pile of pizza beside him.

At some point during his cleaning, it looked like the base provided some special irken wipes for Dib to use on the grease. He mumbled a thank you and began to clean out GIR’s head cavity, making sure to stay extra gentle around the delicate technology that kept him going. Strangely enough, with him so still like this Dib almost thought he looked like a baby. So small and fragile, despite his destructive nature. Dib had seen this thing eat live pigeons, a mountain of pudding, and apparently a child at some point, but it hadn’t really crossed his mind that way before. He thought back to the way Zim had protected GIR at Bloaty’s, even from Dib. This robot really was, in a way, like Zim’s child. They couldn’t lose GIR, period.

Tears threatened to prick at Dib’s eyes, so he turned to look at Zim who was still typing madly on the computer. There wasn’t a lot more he could do to clean GIR, but Dib actually knew quite a bit about coding and hacking in general.

As he approached from behind, Zim let out a warning hiss. Disregarding the warning, even at the risk of his own safety, he leaned over Zim and started to type. They both knew he was better at this.

Even still, Zim was smacking at his hands. At least he wasn’t clawing them like before, though.

“Do you want GIR to be fixed or not?” Dib said, maybe a little sharper than he meant to. He lowered his voice to something more soft when Zim’s antenna went flat against his head.

“I would never do anything to hurt GIR, and I’m honestly a little offended you would think that.” His hands continued to type as he talked, the computer translating the Irken for him to speed the process along. Surprisingly, it hadn’t given them lip this whole time. Maybe it knew how serious the situation was?

Reluctantly, Zim slipped out from the chair and gave control of the coding to Dib. Zim was still Zim though, and he sharply turned to punch a nearby smaller screen. Grinding his teeth, Dib was thankful that at least the screen he picked wasn’t displaying anything too important since it was now shattered and useless.

That seemed to get his anger out enough for the time being, and Zim was quickly back to work on fitting GIR back together like a really shitty puzzle.

Hours passed like that. The base was filled with complete silence, aside from the hum of the computer, the tapping of the keyboard, and the sound of GIR being pieced back together. Dib’s eyes were growing bleary as the night dragged on. Plenty of Dib’s free time was spent in front of computers, but these blue light glasses didn’t seem to help a lot when it came to alien screens. For what felt like the eight hundredth time, his fingers snaked under his glasses to wipe helplessly at his straining eyes while making stars appear. At this point, he had done all he could.

Without the sound of the keyboard echoing in the lab, Zim turned to look at Dib.

“Have you finished?” There was a twinge of fear in Zim’s voice still. Dib ached to comfort him in any way he could.

“Yeah, you?”

“He’s at least in one piece now.” There was a sigh in Zim’s voice. Dib turned around in his chair to see, and there he lay. No longer broken, but GIR’s eyes were still dead.

“Computer, display GIR’s status.”

On the screen Dib had been working at for the last few hours, a new tab opened itself. At its center was a sleeping smiley face with words below that the computer read aloud.

MEMORY BACKUP IN PROGRESS: LOADING…

SHELL STATUS: FUNCTIONAL
PERSONALITY CHIP: FUNCTIONAL

The list continued on, most things seemingly in place. Finally, at the bottom was displayed:

REBOOT TIME: 8 HOURS

Simultaneously, the two let out the breath they didn’t know they were holding. GIR was safe. Zim was safe. Everything really was going to be okay. As many times as Dib has said it to Zim, he wasn’t sure how much he believed it at certain points.

With a moment to relax after such a crazy night, Zim and Dib fell back against the wall and slid to the floor side by side. It was something they used to do after their fights back when Dib came over in middle school and they both got so winded they called a timeout. Now here they were, graduated, and just as winded from hours of fixing Zim’s tiny robot. Dib let out an exhausted laugh and ran his hands over his face again.

“I told you I wouldn’t let that happen.” He smiled over at Zim, eyes still bleary.

Suddenly Zim was close, his face just inches from Dib’s. Dib gasped as he felt his heart jump into his throat. “Wha-”

He couldn’t finish his question before Zim was gently kissing Dib’s cheek, just like they had on the bridge. He felt completely frozen, afraid that if he moved the moment would fall apart and turn out to be a hallucination from coding too long. But it was real, and Dib’s ears burned red hot as Zim’s lips lingered long enough to breathe warm air onto his cheek.

When Zim pulled back, Dib followed dangerously close for just a moment before he stopped himself. Right, he told Zim that cheek kisses were just a friend thing. If he went and assaulted Zim with his tongue here on the floor of the lab, how would he explain that away? Instead, Dib just let their faces linger a little too close together for a moment, his eyes flicking back and forth between Zims large curious ones.

Zim broke the silence first.

“Your hand…”

It’s like he only just remembered cutting Dib. To be truthful, Dib had mostly forgotten in the flurry of everything too. It ached some, but the scratch wasn’t terribly deep. No need for stitches, at least.

“It’s nothing.” Dib reassured. “Just a new battle scar.”

Zim ran his hand down the length of Dib’s forearm, carefully tracing the wrist scars left behind from his childhood. The gloved fingers hovered over the new cut, untouching.

“It wont scar, though.”

Dib rolled his eyes. “I know, I just meant like…”

“It’s not deep enough to scar.”

“I know. It’s just that when we were kids-”

“I can make it deeper if you want.”

Dib laughed, letting his tired head fall on top of Zims. “It’ll just be more mess to clean up. I’m okay with not having a scar from this.”

Zim leaned more openly into Dib then, the two of them still against the wall. Everything felt right with the world, and he had Zim beside him, so it didn’t take long at all for Dib to drift off.

“OKAY, IT’S DONE.”

The ubiquitous voice from the computer jolted Dib awake. He felt so warm laying there though, that if it wasn’t for the obnoxious scream that followed Dib would have gone right back to sleep. A little irritated, he forced his eyes open.

At some point during their sleep, they had both moved to the floor completely. Zim was curled forward, hugging the empty dog suit GIR used like it was a stuffed animal. Dib was right behind him, openly spooning his friend. Unfortunately, Zim was also jolted awake by the screaming and leapt up to his feet quicker than Dib would have liked.

But it was all for a happy reunion, so Dib couldn’t stay mad about all the yelling. He pushed himself into an upright position, yawning while GIR enthusiastically ran into Zim’s open arms.

“Don’t you EVER go running into a Bloaty’s crowd again!” Zim scolded him, but the way GIR was being held in his arms was secure and loving.

“Aww, but I waaaanna!” The robot whined.

“I said no, GIR.”

GIR erupted into tears, screaming his little head off until he became so hoarse that he began violently coughing. After a few good dry heaves, another slice of pizza flopped out of his mouth and onto the floor in front of Dib.

Dib was 100% certain that he had gotten every last piece of pizza out of GIR…

“LET’S GO AGAIN!!!” GIR was back to being just as excited as he was a moment ago, and leapt out of Zim’s arms to run laps around the lab. All Dib could do was shake his head as he watched the happy little family reunite.

 

___________________________

 

As with every other memory, the two returned to the unsettling darkness while the remains of Zim’s lab wisped away. Without realizing, Dib had been clutching his fists so hard his knuckles began to turn white. Now with the memory gone he released his fingers, flexing them back and forth to get the blood properly flowing again.

Even with GIR ending up just fine, it was still a difficult memory to relive. How upset Zim had been, how hopeless things felt for a while there… And with the memory probes purposefully echoing those feelings within Zim and Dib as they watched, it was a little much for him. Mostly, he felt terrible that Zim had to see GIR in such a state again. He frowned, looking over to his friend.

“Why did you make us watch that? You knew it was just going to hurt you.”

“I need you to remember” Zim’s voice was a little shaky. “I need you to remember everything. Even if it means I have to see that again.”

Dib sighed, taking Zim’s hand in his. “You’re a real pain in the ass, sometimes.”

It must be awful, watching what’s essentially your child be ripped apart again. But Dib tried to understand what Zim meant by ‘everything’. There was only one night he had forgotten, why not go straight to that? He was still looking down at Zim, who wore a strange expression.

He realized what was next as the colors shifted and bled into his peripherals again. The Bloaty’s incident had been during their last summer together before…

Uh oh.

Dib felt his throat start to get tight. He really didn’t want to watch this. Zim still looked up at Dib, not letting his hand go. Nothing was said, but it was as if he was pleading for forgiveness.

This was gonna fucking suck.

Chapter Text

It was a freakishly hot end to summer and anyone stupid enough to venture outside immediately baked. The streets almost smelled like bacon. Luckily, Zim and Dib had enough sense to at least stay in Zim’s basement. Being so far underground, it was kept at a naturally cooler temperature. Sitting in two of Zim’s giant, cushy chairs with the weird indents in the back for PAKs, they were both facing a giant screen. The computer had fought them a bit, but they finally got it to run one of Zim’s Irken ‘training simulations’ he called them. Dib would call it a video game, personally. Originally he came over to help Zim perfect their most recent team project, a Mime Detector. Dib knew they hid among the masses, silent but deadly. Like a human fart in a striped shirt.

The screen displayed a racing game- pardon, ‘simulation’. A split down the middle of the screen divided the player’s Irken ship on either side as they zipped through space. They rolled between other ships, planets, space debris, the works. Dib felt the sweat that beaded a long his hairline, not from heat but just from the sheer focus he felt at the chance to completely wreck Zim at his own game. Admittedly, he had long forgotten about the Mime Detector- not about the ever looming threat of mimes, however. Dib mashed the buttons on the controller made for much smaller, three fingered hands and sent Zim’s ship into an asteroid belt.

“Take THAT, alien scum!” Dib mocked, throwing his hands into the air in victory. It sounded so cheesy and he knew it, but it was something he always wanted to say in earnest. He leaned and bumped Zim’s shoulder with his own, trying to signal him that he was teasing.

“That’s cheating! You’re cheating!” Zim barked back, twisting the controller in his hands as if a new angle would help.

“I don’t even know the cheats for this game, isn’t it irken?”

Zim remained silent, giant raspberry eyes squinting at the screen. Dib knew Zim was going to gun for him now, but he didn’t mind. Dib rolled his eyes and smiled before turning his full attention back to the screen.

“Y’know, this kinda makes me think of that time we both had control of The Massive…” Dib’s voice trailed off as he remembered. He smiled larger, The Massive was the most impressive thing Dib had ever seen and he got to control it. He recalled being able to feel its weight when it turned, pushing it to its limits. It was really similar to this game, actually! Really.. Really similar...

“In fact… it’s JUST like that.” Dib muttered, giving his controller a once over to see if it rang any bells.

Zim’s anntenae twitched, his fingers flew much more effortlessly over the buttons than Dib’s.

“Maybe if you focused on the race you’d be winning still!” Zim teased, flashing Dib his strangely segmented teeth.

“Don’t tell me these are real spaceships you hacked into.”

“WHAT? It’s not like they were using them properly!”

“ZIM!” Dib almost dropped his remote, what if there were innocent aliens inside? That little, green dipshit! Even if they were Irkens, they didn’t pose much of a threat to other beings now that they were in recovery mode trying to salvage the remains of their species.

“Relax! They're abandoned anyway, left behind by some research team that was pulled back to Irk.”

Dib let out a large, dramatic sigh of relief and leaned back against the chair. Zim hummed, Dib figured that meant he was happy he had calmed down. Dib kicked his foot against the ground and spun the chair away from the race, he looked over Zim’s base. Same as always, a mess of random unfinished projects, snack wrappers, Zim stuff. The mundane garbage around him helped Dib really appreciate that he was piloting a ship potentially hundreds of lightyears away from Earth. In real time! He turned himself back to the screen and watched the stars in the distance as they slowly moved past Dib’s now still ship.

“Man, what I would do to really be there.” Dib almost whispered, barely realising he had said out loud. He could be zipping through space, meeting new races, finding undiscovered planets, maybe fighting some beast with like 90 eyeballs and 5 extremely buff arms… But instead he was there on Earth. Dib’s head fell back against the chair, he felt trapped suddenly. Claustrophobic on his own planet, somehow. His daydream was interrupted by the feeling of Zim’s eyes watching him. Dib turned to match his gaze but Zim had already looked back to the screen.

“We could go, yknow.” Zim stared forward as he spoke, like he was too afraid to look at Dib directly in that moment. Dib didn’t stop staring though, he kept his eyes trained on Zim. Outer space… Dib had been there a few times, more than he ever could have imagined he would. It was vast and scary with much more complicated social systems, governments, a ton of things Dib never really thought about but… It was free. He was there alien out there, he was the alien to Zim just in there in this base.

“Of course, the Voot would be far too small to tote a stinking human around the universe in.” Zim pressed on. The way he spoke quickly reminded Dib of himself, justifying a proposal before even getting an answer. It was clear the two were rubbing off on one another. Was Zim nervous about this? Dib’s heart tugged as Zim pushed forward, rambling a bit.

“However, we do have access to some vital parts in Tak’s old ship.” Zim still was staring intently at the large screen, his ship darting around more debris. He hadn’t slowed it down at all yet. “With our combined efforts we could easily improve my Voot to hold all three of us.”

Finally, Zim turned to meet Dib’s gaze. They were wide, awkwardly large, and brimming with hope. How could Dib say no to any of that, especially with the way Zim looked at him now?

“Zim, that sounds incredible!” He blurted, imagination running wild at all the possibilities. Not just traveling alone, but with his best friend. Where would they go? Zim was well versed with space beyond Earth’s small system, and Dib would bet he had seen some incredible things. But just as quickly as he was filled with joy, reality quickly sunk Dib back to his spot in the cushy irken gamer chair.

College was right around the corner. It was the end of summer, and his new semester was finally starting. For once in Dib’s life, it felt like things might be falling into order, and he was even getting along with his dad. To an extent. It had been fight after fight during his senior year in public school, but the two had seemed to reach an agreement on the college Dib was slated to attend. Of course he could throw it all away and run off to space, what kind of intergalactic traveler needs a degree from some Earth college, anyway? The more responsible and logical part of Dib’s brain reminded him that updating an alien spacecraft to be fit enough for travel would take time, and space would still be there when it was ready. Would it be worth risking the relationship he had seemingly just patched up with Membrane? He had every intention to travel space still, but that could be months away, years even. Dib took a breath, hoping Zim would understand.

“But…” Dib trailed off. Zim’s antenna already were falling back against his skull. “I’m gonna have school and stuff. It might just take us a little longer than you planned for us to get going, is all.”

Zim’s face quickly changed from crestfallen to confused. “School? We already finished The School. We did the whole stupid robe hat throwy thing already! Are we not graduates?”

“Sometimes people do more school after.” Dib shrugged. He had assumed Zim would know about college, given how the prospect of it was shoved down their throats nearly all senior year. Leave it to Zim to somehow still be completely oblivious to anything that didn’t immediately pertain to himself.

“Nonsense! Why would you go back to that useless training ground? We learned practically nothing!”

“Well, I mean, yeah. But… usually these schools are way better than public school. I would actually be able to learn stuff! It might even help with building the ship!” Dib wanted this to be a good thing. He hadn’t even brought up the fact that he was leaving until now.

Zim rubbed his chin with a gloved finger thoughtfully. “No human education could ever measure to my superior intellect. However, it would be nice for you to be a little less stupid. Very well. I approve of the More School.”

Dib let out a small sigh of relief. “College.”

“Yes, yes. College. And every day after College, The Dib will report here to my base so we can work on the Voot right away.”

Well shit. There was a noticeable beat of silence between the two that dragged on just long enough for things to feel awkward. Dib could feel his teeth nervously bite at his lower lip while he searched for a good way to explain himself. Now it was his turn to avoid eye contact despite feeling Zim’s waiting gaze on the side of his head.

“Well, uh, I don’t think I’d be able to do that.”

“Eh? Why not?” Zim sounded irritated, but not angry.

“I’m not going to school here anymore. In town, I mean.” Dib clarified, hoping Zim would put it together faster.

“Eh?”

“I’m moving kinda far for school, actually.”

“Eh?”

“I’m leaving, Zim!”

There was another awkward beat of silence. Dib didn’t intend for it to come out so snappy, but it frustrated him when Zim made that stupid noise over and over instead of just listening. He felt guilty, suddenly. Guilty for snapping. Guilty for not telling his friend sooner. The wait felt unbearable while Dib paused for a response.

“Oh, I see.” Zim finally said. It came out so flat, Dib almost didn’t think it sounded like him.

“Yeah…” A swallow was choked down as Dib continued to avoid looking at Zim. “I actually got accepted to the one I was telling you about with the whole class dedicated to cryptid studies.”

“Mm.”

It was Dib’s turn to ramble, hoping to salvage the day that had been fun before this conversation. “It’s kinda funny, my Dad sent applications to Harvard, Yale, all the big schools. He was so pissed when I picked this one, but he’s kinda cool with it now. Y’know he just like, figures ‘as long as Dib is going to school’ ha ha…” He trailed off with an awkward laugh. It really wasn’t that funny.

“Right.”

Dib was used to Zim’s anger. He could deal with the yelling, the tantrums, the tyraids. Every part of him wished that Zim was stomping his feet right now. Or spitting in Dib’s face from the ferocity of his yelling. He honestly wouldn’t even mind if his ears started to ring from the volume of Zim’s screeching, or if his voice started to crack the way it did when the two of them really got into it. This was different, he wasn’t used to the cold silence. Zim was staring forward still, eyes unseeing as his ship continued to charge forward and bounce off multiple meteors hurtling through its path. The silence continued to stretch on until Dib couldn’t stand it any longer.

“I meant to tell you sooner.”

“Oh, I’m sure you were incredibly busy with your College.” At least this got a response out of Zim. “So important to you humans, needless education.”

 

“It’s not that.” Dib pleaded, hating how pathetic he sounded. But it was true, and he’d rather a cool space proposition not turn into a fight.

“Of course it’s not! I probably just wouldn’t understand because you think I’m a stupid useless alien, don’t you Dib? You just think I’m defective too, huh? WELL I’M NOT. I’M INCREDIBLY SMART.” There was the volume.

Dib couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes at the declaration, but he did want to soothe Zim still. “I- I know you’re smart. Honestly, you’re kinda a smartASS. Your intelligence isn’t in question here.”

“Well it’s a good thing I don’t need any of your help fixing my ship after all! You would probably just ruin it anyway!” Zim hollered, slamming the controller down like a child before hopping out of his seat. Dib followed close behind.

It only took Zim a moment to head straight for the table containing their Mime Detector and start packing it away. Various cables snaked down from the ceiling, seemingly from nowhere in particular, and began lifting the unfinished project up and away into storage somewhere else in the base. There was no real reason to be cleaning up the unfinished project aside from pettiness. This was exactly why Dib hadn’t told Zim about him moving away yet.

“C’mon, man! I want to help you with the ship. It’ll just have to be on breaks and stuff when I don’t have class.” Dib tried to reason. Zim stopped handing the pieces to the cables for a moment to assess Dib with a calculating gaze.

“I’ll come with you then.” He said it like a fact. Like it would be so easy to just walk on campus with Zim of all people and not have that totally distract him from all his studies.

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

It was out of Dib’s mouth before he could stop it. Gaz always said that Dib was extraordinarily good at fitting his foot into his mouth. The antenna on Zim’s head were pinned back again, looking almost hurt by the statement. But it was true! All he wanted was for college to be the fresh start Dib so badly deserved. With Zim around, that would be impossible. There was even the prospect of dating, something Dib had earnestly avoided while fighting back his stupid childhood crush on Zim. Being away at college gave him the opportunity to try to run away from some gay thoughts, or at least keep his gay thoughts to something from his galaxy. Still, Zim seemed disappointed for a fraction of a second before turning back into the cold soldier.

“Not that I don’t want you around! I just mean, how would I explain-”

“COMPUTER!!” Zim barked.

“Yeeees…?” The computer groaned in response.

“Escort The Dib from my base.” Zim’s gaze locked on Dib, his face unreadable.

“You’re kicking me out? Seriously? Can’t we just ta-AAACK!!!” Dib was cut off by one of the many thick cables dropping from the ceiling and grabbing his ankle. Dib’s body was hurled into the air, whipped back and forth as the computer yanked him up and out of the base. The last thing Dib saw was Zim’s cold, unreadable stare disappearing into the distance. Dib grunted when his ass collided with the front lawn.

“Really? You’re being real mature right now, Zim!” Dib yelled, just before the gnomes moved to shove him off the property completely. Anger boiled in his stomach, Dib grabbed a loose stone on the cement outside Zim’s property.

“Absolute dick!!! THIS IS WHY I DIDN’T TELL YOU, ASSHOLE!” He hurled the stone at one of Zim’s windows as hard as he could. He knew the alien glass wouldn’t break, but it was still a little cathartic. Dib threw his hands in the air, grunting with frustration before stomping home rubbing his ass. Gaz was going to get an ear full.

 

___________________________

 

The vision swam, colors running together like ink in water before reconstructing Dib’s room. It was the cleanest it had ever been, most of the mess that accumulated around Dib’s laptop had been put in its proper place. There was an amazing lack of snack wrappers on the floor, no stray cups, and his bed was even made.

“DIB! Don’t forget your Thinking Cap!” Membrane called from downstairs.

 

Dib fought to roll his eyes when he reached into his closet and pulled out a large metal helmet with about a dozen wires and tubes jetting from it and coiling around. A Membrane Labs sticker showed proudly on the front and Dib remembered when his dad used these to brainwash everyone into buying Super Toast. The goal had been to “Make the population healthier,” against their will of course. Dib now officially rolled his eyes and started packing again.

“YEAH DAD, it’s in there…” Dib lied, slamming his closet shut.

It had been a few days since Dib and Zim had gotten into it back at his base. They hadn’t seen each other since and hadn’t even talked, and no matter how many times Dib checked his texts there were never any new ones. Pride stood in his way of reaching out first, Zim was the one who had thrown him on his ass anyway. Why should Dib have to grovel? Zim was just being dramatic, maybe Dib was too. But their fight hadn’t changed the fact that now his childhood room was almost completely packed up, save for the helmet and a few other things. At the end of the day, Dib was going to be living on campus in a town far from here.

He wondered why he didn’t feel more excited.

There was a shattering noise that made Dib’s heartbeat skyrocket as he turned to the source, jumping back from the stray pieces of glass that were now littering his newly cleaned carpet.

Zim stood on his bed, the window behind him broken. His long spider-like PAK legs dug into the comforter and up against the wall, positioning the alien so he could look down at Dib menacingly. It wasn’t the first time Zim had come through his window, but it had been a few years since he’d gone so far as to break it. In that moment, Dib’s anger was gone and replaced by irritation at such an arrival. Zim, however, didn’t allow him the first word.

“Ah, Dib PISS. Good to see you bothered coming to say goodbye to your BESTEST FRIEND.” The smile that stretched across Zims face was wide and anything but happy. “Oh, wait! ZIM had to come to YOU.”

Dib stepped carefully over the scattered glass and gazed up at Zim. “What the fuck- I’m not even done packing! I’m leaving today but I’m not even do-”

“YOU LIE!” The shriek of these words was annoyingly familiar. Zim cleared his throat and raised a pointed claw to Dib’s face before he continued. “It’s been a few days, puke beast. A few days of Zim coming up with the perfect plan.”

Dib felt his brow quirk as his eyes bounced over Zim’s form. The taunting, his word choices… it almost felt like Dib had been launched back into their old school and the two of them were twelve years old again. Zim certainly looked the same, but Dib… he felt a lot more tired now. He wasn’t sure he would be able to keep up with this act or joke that Zim decided to put on today. Instead, he let his foot kick the open suitcase shut and shook his head, letting a small chuckle slip through his lips.

“Very funny, Zim. Just like old times. I have a lot I still need to do, so-”

Zim was in front of Dib in an instant, his PAK legs carrying him across the room so a gloved finger could smash itself against Dib’s mouth in an aggressive motion. A hissing “SHH” was spat before the same gloved hands shoved Dib hard against his closet. Unprepared for the hostility, Dib lost his footing enough to fall on his already sore ass. The PAK legs skittered Zim closer so he could loom over Dib’s fallen form.

“Aren’t you even a little curious why your sister hasn’t come to see you off, you selfish stink monster?” Zim’s voice purred, low and dangerous.

“Well she probably doesn’t CARE. You’re being a HUGE dick right now!” Dib shouted indignantly from his bedroom floor. Of all the ways he had imagined his goodbye with Zim to go, this wasn’t one of them. Their fights weren’t cathartic anymore, they just hurt.

The smirk that crossed Zim’s face sent a chill up Dib’s spine, but he made no motion to show that to the alien. Something felt very off, and Dib watched Zim carefully as a small screen was deployed from Zim’s PAK to display a grainy feed. On the screen, Gaz could be seen floating inside one of the large test tubes Dib recognized from the irken base. She was unconscious.

His blood went cold. Zim would never hurt Gaz, right? And Gaz could take Zim in a fight, right?? So how did she end up trapped there? Dib only ripped his eyes away from the screen so he could look Zim dead in the face. That wicked grin was still there, clearly amused by Dib’s obvious reaction. He had felt betrayal before, but not quite like this. The Florpus hole was partly Dib’s own fault, and Dib had stabbed Zim in the back a fair amount of times in their childhood. But that was when they were kids, not now. Not that now they had years of history, friendship even. This was something else. This was his baby sister in the hands of a known killer.

Without thinking, his whole body launched forward, grabbing at Zim’s throat. Clearly, he had been waiting for a response like this, because Zim rolled back with Dib, just out of reach. He took a swing at the alien, missing and stumbling over the broken glass from his window. Dib felt wild.

“Why do you have Gaz?! HOW do you have Gaz? Shouldn’t you be inside out just for looking at her wrong?!” His voice came hoarsely, shouted as he tried to control his breathing.

“I’ve learned many things during our talks, like the humans squishy weaknesses. I won’t bore you with details, I doubt your pathetic human brain lobes could process it all.”

Dib threw another punch, aiming right for Zim’s head. It was easily dodged, and faster than Dib could blink, he was back on the floor. Pieces of glass were jutting into his back as a sharp PAK leg dug in and pinned him down. How was it Zim could still move so fast after years of no training? Of course he was a cyborg alien, but Dib knew for a fact that most of their time over the past few years was spent watching movies, playing games, just hanging out. Dib certainly wasn’t in as good of shape as he had been when he spent all his free time running after Zim, but Zim seemed stronger than ever. How unfair.

The PAK leg was removed and Dib rolled to stand, the words demanding Gaz’s safety falling silent on his lips as Zim leapt back out the window. He could hear the wild cackling in his yard as Dib rushed forward across his bed to follow the cretin. It seemed that Zim was acting just as wild as Dib felt. There was no disguise, it was broad daylight, and the irken was moving with his PAK legs down the open street back to his base. Cars were punctured as Zim scuttled across them, not a care for whatever human might see. This was desperation.

Dib’s lungs felt like they were about to burst in his chest as he continued to push himself forward. God, he wished he had stayed up on his cardio. Pushing the thought out of his head, Dib focused on Gaz. Gaz who needed him, somewhere underground. He didn’t care if his lungs exploded from how hard he ran after Zim, he was going to get to her before Zim could.

They passed the gate into the neighborhood park, the spot where Zim and Dib would always part ways on their walks home from school. The leaves were orange and red now, falling bitterly and crunching beneath Dib’s shoes as he pounded down the sidewalk. Strange how just six months ago the two of them together felt almost normal. Now it was this, running after each other like cat and mouse.

Zim took a sharp turn over a fence into someones backyard. Street forgotten, Dib followed as they both made a b-line straight for Zim’s base. With PAK legs, Zim was easily avoiding most of the obstacles. Dib, however, was having a bit more trouble. Distant shouting echoed in his ears as he cut through some sort of child's birthday party. A maniacal cackle sounded ahead from Zim, heartlessly popping the colorful balloons as he sprung over their fence into the next backyard. Dib wasn’t too far behind, and mindlessly shoved the clown into the pool beside them. He was too focused on saving Gaz to stop and apologize. Besides, clowns were almost as bad as mimes. Hopefully the entertainer could swim.

Breathless, the two finally drew closer to the strange teal house that lay nestled between two larger buildings, ever suckling off their power sources like the parasite Zim was. Zim easily dove inside without even bothering to shut the door. There were still the gnomes outside, after all. It had been years since Dib had to worry about these things. Zim had deemed Dib a “non-threat” long ago, but it seemed like that was reverted sometime in the last few days.

The gnomes eyes began to glow and spark dangerously, and Dib knew to expect lasers. What else? If he could just make it down the short sidewalk leading to the open door, he should be fine. The few burn scars that still singed across his abdomen reminded him that although they weren’t immediately lethal, they could still pack a punch. Quickly, Dib grabbed the lid from one of the neighbors trash cans to use as a makeshift shield. He would just have to run for it.

Holding it in front of his more vulnerable front, Dib let out a battle cry and sprinted for the door. The lasers on either side of him discharged the moment he stepped onto the pathway, and continued to fire as he made a dead sprint. There was a sharp burning sensation as one of the beams caught Dib’s side, easily charing through his shirt. Another hit the lid straight on, hard enough to dislodge it from Dib’s grip. It fumbled from his hands and clanked on the ground as he took another hit, this one in the small of his back. Through the pain, his body leapt forward and through the still open door. Once inside, he rolled onto his back and used his legs to slam the entrance shut and protect him from any further onslaught from the horrible gnomes.

For only a moment, Dib allowed himself to catch his breath. It felt like he had run a marathon only to get the wind knocked out of him at the finish line. He didn’t spend long on the floor though, Gaz still needed him. Adrenaline was still pumping through his veins as he got back to his wobbling feet, eyes searching wildly for any sign of the irken. Dib made sure to scan across the ceiling as well, more than once Zim had gotten the jump on him from above. Alas, he was nowhere to be seen, and Dib was certain the alien had gone straight down into his underground lab.

Dib prayed to whatever deity was out there, mothman perhaps, that he wasn’t too far behind Zim now. Rushing to the kitchen, Dib kicked the familiar trashcan aside to reveal an opening he could barely fit into as an adult. He would have to make it work, for his sister's sake. The pad that usually served as the platform he and Zim used was gone, which probably meant Zim was on it right now. Good. Without another though, Dib dove into the opening.

He fell for what felt like a long time, until his back connected with the side of the shoot Dib was rocketing down. For just a moment, regret crossed his mind. Why didn’t he just wait for the elevator pad to come back up? Was he going to stupidly break his legs after running all the way here? As the shoot almost seemed to curve, Dib leaned his back into the side of it almost like he was in a tube-slide at the playground, except he was going terminal velocity.

Zim came into sight as he fell, still riding the elevator. Dib didn’t realize he was yelling as he fell, until he saw Zim yank his head up to look. Berry colored eyes flashed wide in surprise, and PAK legs extended once more. Was he going to die, impaled on those metal things? Dib closed his eyes tightly and put his arms in front of him, as if that could shield his fall. Then suddenly, he wasn’t falling. And he wasn’t dead. Zim had used the PAK legs to break Dib’s fall safely, and now he was suspended above Zim, held carefully by the metal that extended from behind his alien.

“Zim, I-” Dib’s surprise was cut short by the same legs shoving Dib roughly into the wall as the elevator continued downward. He let out a cry as one of the ends dug into a vulnerable spot near his shoulder and right above his heart. It was actually piercing Dib.

A growl came from Zim that sounded near feral. As the leg dug itself in further, tears sprang into Dib’s eyes. He was furious and absolutely heartbroken. Spindly legs kicked out at Zim while his hands slipped along the PAK leg, trying to get a grip and pull it out of his shoulder.

“WHY??” Dib coughed as the elevator came to a stop. All Zim did in response was sneer before violently removing the PAK leg. Blood squirted after it, the small hole in Dib’s shoulder now exposed. Just like that, the door into the lab was open and Zim was running out, bloodied PAK legs tucked away.

Dib recognized the glow from where he lay on the elevator pad. Forcing himself to his feet, he winced in pain. Gaz was still in there and he had to save her, especially if Zim was this far gone. He would never be able to forgive himself if something happened to her because Dib was stupid enough to trust Zim.

Filled with determination once more, Dib charged after Zim. The glow became brighter and there she was…

Three large containers dominated the wall along the east side of the room. They stretched floor to ceiling and commanded the immediate attention of anyone who entered. Inside they were all filled with a strange liquid, one not found on Earth. Dib knew it well enough, he had found himself inside of these on more than one occasion. Front and center floated Gaz, limp with her eyes closed. Dib had never seen her look so vulnerable before. Even as kids, people were far more likely to find Gaz defending her brother despite being the younger of the two. Seeing her like this now was more than jarring.

Zim forgotten for the moment, Dib rushed forward to Gaz. Fruitlessly, his aching fists pounded at the glass. Of course, he wouldn’t be able to break through, but even if he could just get her to open her eyes or wake up somehow… at least there was comfort knowing she could breath easily, even in the liquid.

“I’m gonna get you out of there, just hold on!” Dib called, continuing to pound. It came out in choked sobs, the tears not stopping once they had started in the elevator. With a final slam of his fist, he let his palm spread against the cold glass and slip slowly down it’s smooth form, leaving a streak of his own blood in its path. She didn’t even twitch.

“I’ll protect you, no matter what!” Fraternal instinct coursed through him. He could hear Zim moving somewhere behind him, causing the hair on the back of Dib’s neck to stand up. “I’ll take you to Bloaties! Or, or that mall to pick up whatever games you want!” Dib wiped his face of the tears and snot that dribbled, his shoulder screaming as it continued to bleed into his shirt and drip on the floor. “Just don’t die, you bitch!”

Gaz’s eyes fluttered open at that. Suspended in the liquid, she gave an overarching stretch and yawned as if awaking from a long nap. Dib gasped, placing both of his palms against the glass. Relief was an understatement. He was about to open his mouth to speak again when Gaz raised a finger to point behind Dib.

There was a rush in his vision and more pain in Dib’s back as he collapsed back to the floor, Zim tackling him down. The alien gave a hiss, swiping at Dib with his latex covered claws. Shallow scratches were made across Dib’s cheek, chest, and arms as he grappled with Zim. Despite everything, Dib still had the advantage of size on his side and used that to roll them over, pinning Zim beneath him. He grabbed at anything he could, one of his hands finding it’s way into Zim’s mouth and yanking him by the cheek to the side. The strange zipper teeth tried to bite at Dib’s fingers, but he just didn’t care anymore. He was already bleeding, burned, and bruised and all Dib wanted in that moment was to make Zim feel as awful as he did.

“Why am I here, Zim?” Gaz called from behind the boys. Her voice was distorted, but she didn’t seem to be in any kind of pain. “I have things to do, like not being around you.”

Zim spat Dib’s hand out of his mouth to respond to her. “Because your PATHETIC, BACKSTABBING, UGLY-”

“I get it.” Gaz sounded bored already.

“Your BROTHER is leaving me! Leaving this town, I mean.” Zim kicked Dib hard in the ribs, rolling him off. His Pak legs were back out, one of them still bloodied from Dib’s shoulder. “So, instead of wallowing in my solitude, I am going to ship your harvested human corpse to The Armada!” That wicked grin was back, joyless and cold. Zim’s eyes seemed to glow in the dim lighting of his lab.

“The Armada is gone, Zim!” Dib shouted, exasperated. “They forgot you, REMEMBER?” He hoped this hurt Zim. He wanted it to cut deep.

Zim stopped aggressing for a moment to tap his claws together and smirk at the siblings. “Yes, they did. But a fresh specimen from one of Earth’s MOST ELITE is sure to put me back on their radar.”

It didn’t make sense. He was acting like the old Zim, not Zim his best friend. Dib grew more desperate. “Zim, The Armada did NOTHING but cast you to some shitty planet in hopes of killing you!”

“My Tallest did, but now they’re gone. I will serve the new Tallest, and surely they will see how TRULY capable I am!” Zims PAK legs raised him up, always wanting the higher ground.

“I am just sittin’ here…” Gaz mumbled from her tube.

“No they WON’T! They NEVER will Zim! You’re not capable, you’re defective!” Dib’s fists were clenched so hard his knuckles were turning white as he shouted up at Zim.

The smile was gone, replaced with unfiltered rage on the aliens face. His teeth were fully bared, and he came down on Dib with such speed that the human found himself stumbling backward, unprepared for the force. Claws raked across Dib’s skin again as Zim took a handful of his shirt in his fist, yanking their faces close together. One of the Pak legs was positioned right above Dib’s already open wound.

“Is that what you think, Dib? Is that really how you think of Zim?” The leg plunged back into the wound, more painful than the first time. Dib cried out, his legs twisting beneath him.

“Is that why you’re leaving me? Is that why everyone leaves?” Zim held Dib tightly, but his whole body was shaking.

“WHINER.” Gaz called from the tube, distain loud through the liquid.

A gasp raking through Dib’s aching lungs. The adrenaline was leaving him, and he just felt weak. His brown eyes flicked back and forth between Zim’s angry red ones, searching for the Zim he had come to know. It was hard to find with the metal digging into his muscle. Dib ground his teeth so hard he thought they might break. Everything hurt; his body, his lungs, his heart. Everything.

“I should have never fucking trusted you.” It was hissed between Dib’s teeth.

“No.” Zim spoke just as softly. “You shouldn’t have.”

Things would never be the same between them.

Zim released Dib, and the human pathetically fell the ground, metal appendage easily slipping back out of his shoulder. From where Dib laid on the ground, Zim almost seemed tall as he loomed over him.

He wasn’t going to let Zim get the upper hand like this. Dib had been through worse, he’d felt pain more severe than this. He could always push through it.

He lashed out his good arm, reaching for the Pak leg that was stabbing him moments before. Gripping tightly, the two of them pulled. It felt like his brain was completely whited out as they wrestled until Dib could hear the tell-tale cracking sound of the appendage breaking off. Victorious, he threw the Pak leg away from them both as Zim screamed. It was satisfying to know this was causing Zim some level of discomfort, and Dib couldn’t fight the smile he felt as sparks could be heard coming from behind Zim. There was a growl, and Zim was launching at Dib again.

Then he wasn’t there. Zim was knocked out of Dib’s view by Gaz, who was apparently released from the tube by GIR sometime during their fight. The little robot sat by, shoveling popcorn into his mouth and waving wildly at Dib.

“Hiii Mary!” The appendage was moving so quickly Dib’s eyes could hardly see it.

Gaz finished chewing the popcorn she had evidently been sharing with the robot and lifted her brother to his feet. Dib’s knees wobbled dangerously as he stood, so Gaz slung his good arm around her shoulders to support him. She must have hit Zim pretty fucking hard, because he was still laying on the floor by the time Dib was steadied. When he finally sat up a bit, Dib could see one of Zim’s eyes had fully popped out of his skull. The alien popped it back in place like it was nothing.

“C’mon…” Gaz muttered as she urged them both forward, clearly eager to leave. As they passed Zim, still on the floor, Dib spit blood onto him. It sizzled when it made contact with the strange alien skin.

“Don’t come near me or my family ever again.”

Zim almost looked shameful, crumpled up on the floor of his base as Dib limped to the elevator with Gaz. He hoped this would be the last time he ever had to look at his traitorous best friend.

 

___________________________

 

The memory faded, slower than the others did. Dib had retreated his hands off of Zim ages ago and they lay crossed now, a subconscious attempt at protecting himself. It was so fucking like Zim to just show up at his dorm and move in mere months after kidnapping his sister, on top of never apologizing! Dib stole a sideways glance toward Zim, the memory officially melting away in front of them. Without warning or thought, questions poured from him.

“Zim, what was all that? You never even explained, or said you were sorr-” Dib started, only to be cut off by Zim as he so frequently was. The small alien pressed his hand softly against the scar that marked Dib’s shoulder now, then leaned forward to replace the touch with his forehead. Dib could feel his face heat up, he couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed or angry that Zim was doing this right now.

“Zim- start talking, like right now.” Dib gave an attempt to nudge Zim away from him, but was quickly reminded of the irkens supernatural strength when he didn’t even budge.

“We already spoke about it, Dib-thing. This is the important part, you idiot.” It was mumbled, but even the insult had no real bite behind it. Zim was speaking so softly, Dib was straining to make out the words.

Zim moved off Dib of his own accord after, leaving the memory of an ache inside Dib’s shoulder. The memory was blurry as it started to construct itself for the last time. Emotions were at war inside of Dib, everything still felt unresolved. If the two of them could just stop everything and talk about what happened, maybe that would stop that sick feeling nestled deep in Dib’s gut. Reliving these moments back to back was starting to fuck with Dib, imprints of anger, love, sadness, everything screaming at once.

He wanted to turn away, to ignore the pressing memory that was forcing itself into his view. Of course by now he knew that was impossible since it was formed from his own mind, but this was allegedly the final one that they had been waiting for this whole time. Heat crept back up Dib’s face, this meant that if what Zim said happened was true, they were about to see it.

When he glanced over at Zim again, Dib could see there was also a flush crossing his green cheeks. Good, at least Dib wasn’t the only embarrassed one here.

Slowly, it came together. His room was formed, and Dib was filled with that familiar warm and dizzying feeling of being a little too drunk. A loud tapping noise cut through the stupor.

Dib gasped.

Chapter Text

The room spun wildly as Dib’s eyes tried again and again to focus on a pinpoint on his ceiling. From the childhood bed where he lay on crumpled black sheets, his eyes repeatedly tried to refocus before drifting to trail across the detailed pattern then snapping back to their original spot. He was hoping that rooting himself somewhere would alleviate some of the swimming in his head, but even that wasn’t doing the trick tonight. Somewhere far away, Dib could hear his body sigh a groan as his limbs grew too heavy and his stomach settled awkwardly, radiating an unfamiliar too-drunk warmth through him. He couldn’t really be that far gone, could he? It felt like he had only had a few shots, like two max?

He was fine though! Dib could handle it, he wasn’t drunk like, at all. It was probably just the weird looking pigs in a blanket they had at the party, or maybe the dip. Dib tried to shake his head, hoping that would clear the feeling, but it only made things worse. A few focused breaths and a very still head later, his stomach finally settled and Dib was only left with that same floating feeling of having a few too many. Trusting himself not to puke now, he sat up carefully and removed his shirt. It was too uncomfortably warm in here, his cheeks were burning up even as the cool air hit his chest.

 

The shirt became more of a challenge when it reached his head. Temporarily blinded by fabric, Dib twisted in place with long arms flailing to untangle and grab any part of it. Of course it got stuck on his huge- uh, totally normal sized head. An irritated grunt was huffed as he finally took purchase of the offending clothes and yanked it the rest of the way off his body. It fell to the floor, beside the other clothes scattered from his small bag of personal belongings that Dib had brought with him for the trip home.

Next were his shoes, which he carefully positioned one foot behind the other so Dib could slip them off easily without the risk of bending over too far and becoming sick (from the food of course, because he was definitely not THAT drunk). A clunk came from his bed frame as one shoe came free and smacked against it. The other soon followed and they too were left in the pile along with his shirt. Laying back on the bed, Dib finally shimmied out of his jeans and left those to the pile as well.

Free from his clothed prison, Dib lay proudly on his bed with only a slightly dazed expression. It was so comfortable, and he was so totally sober right now. These were good choices by a very not drunk Dib. What did Gaz always call it… self care? Self care was making sure not to fall asleep with sneakers still on. He was so sober, making big boy sober choices. Maybe he would find a cure for cancer while he’s so very sober.

The smile on Dib’s face began to relax as he took in his surroundings more. Being back in his old room drudged up a lot of mixed feelings. Nostalgia, for the posters depicting mothman and bigfoot. How much time did he spend running around the woods completely unequipped to face them as a child? Of course now as an adult, Dib would be ready when he ran into them. How naive he had been. There was a feeling of bitterness as well, of all the time he spent hulled up here as Membrane never seemed to be home. At least there was stuff to distract him from the fact that Dib and Gaz nearly never saw their father. How much time was wasted that could have been spent together as a family? Would things be different now if they had a game night like the nuclear families on tv? Well, of course not. Gaz would either dominate or rage quit, Membrane would no doubt be called off to work, and Dib would have been far to busy with saving the world.

Then there was a deeper sadness that came over Dib. All the time in his room, avoiding the rest of his empty home, it was all spent watching Zim. Even after their truce and the beginning of their friendship, there were still times that Dib would violate that unspoken boundary to peek in on his best friend and see what Zim was up to without him. The more powerful computer setup Dib had taken to his dorm, but there was still a spare monitor and some other components to his previous setup that still sat in the now vacant room reminding him of his bad habits.

He bit the inside of his cheek at the thought of checking in on Zim. It had been months since their incident, which was also the last time the had seen or spoken to each other. Since starting classes, Dib had been tempted to delve into his old ways and boot up the old system to check out Zim’s hive-like base. Most days he had been far too busy to act on it, but there had been a weekend when he found himself free and alone, with nothing else on his plate.

 

The temptation was too strong, and Dib gave in quickly. Booting up the camera program was muscle memory, and it wasn’t long before the feed was live and displaying the achingly familiar base. To Dib’s disappointment and relief, Zim wasn’t home when he had checked, and even after scouring and fiddling with it for around an hour, there was no sign of the irken. Thoughts of Zim possibly departing Earth never to return invaded Dib’s mind and plagued him as he desperately flicked through each of the bases cameras. Long ago he had hoped for that, but the thought of truly never seeing Zim again without even a chance of reconciliation… his gut twisted at the thought. Dib hadn’t even realized how late into the night it was by the time he finally spotted Zim on the feed, still in disguise. He had just been out… There was a feeling of relief, then disappointment in himself. Dib had shut out any further thoughts on the matter after that night and refused to reopen the program.

So now, laying in bed, why was he thinking about it again? He had made it clear he wanted nothing to do with Zim, yet he had been so distraught in that moment. Now, Dib was still laid out drunk in his bed dwelling on Zim yet again. Even when everything had changed, seemingly nothing had changed at the same time.

His eyes lazily moved back to the poster of bigfoot that remained pinned to the wall. Dib had to stop dwelling on this, and he knew every time he did he would get stuck in the big Zim-Spiral he always did. So instead, he focused as hard as he could on the dimly lit poster, only visible by the streetlight streaming in from his window. Enchanting.

There was a light tapping, like something sharp on glass somewhere behind Dib’s head. He didn’t think anything of it until the repetitive noise happened a second time, much louder. Dib’s heart leapt straight into his throat, was bigfoot at his window? With a gasp, he rolled over to pry open the glass and meet the large hairy ape.

“I-I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN!”

The words came out sloppier than Dib meant to say them, but he had to get it out for the big man himself. Well, until his eyes refocused on what was certainly not bigfoot. It was Zim, backlit by the same streetlight that was illuminating his bigfoot poster moments before. There was no mistaking the silhouette though, the way his antenna lay flat against his head and his pak legs extended behind his back and presumably left holes in the side paneling of his father's home.

Dib couldn’t stop the slight sneer that crossed his face at recognizing his former foe-slash-best friend. He sat back, trying to process why all of the sudden Zim would show up here on the final night before Dib’s return to college. If he was looking to stage another idiodic plan like last time he tried to leave, there was no way Dib would be able to put up a fight in this state. While his brain sludged along trying to make sense of their situation, Zim silently let himself inside the open window. He sat perched on the foot of the bed, legs dangling off and not looking back at Dib just yet. Finally finding his words, Dib spoke in a far less excited tone.

“Why are you here?” He wanted it to sound tough, but it sounded a lot more defeated.

Zim seemed to pick his words carefully before looking at Dib and responding. “You’re leaving. I am doing a proper human departure ritual.”

Dib huffed at that. “I told you not to talk to me anymore.”

Zim broke eye contact with Dib at that, curling in a little on himself and hugging his legs to his chest. There were a few beats of silence between them as Dib looked on, searching for an explanation, an apology, anything. Finally, Zim looked back to Dib again, his bright eyes almost seeming to glow in the darkness of the room. His antenna moved forward and began twitching and flickering lightly in Dibs direction, a movement indicating Zim was smelling him.

“You poisoned yourself?” One of Zims sharp eyes squinted in Dib’s direction.

It was all he could do but shake his head. “Sorta? It’s intentional, and not lethal. Well most of the time-” Dib began to explain, noting how Zims gaze seemed to shift just for a moment toward Dib’s wrists. “A fun thing. Recreational.”

There was a small huff from Zim at those words, bordering amused. “Fun.” He repeated the word, voice dripping with disgust. “So that’s what you were doing, poisoning yourself for ‘fun’ with those pathetic worms we used to detest together.”

Dib was taken aback at Zim’s audacity. He wasn’t sure why he was surprised, knowing how Zim could be, but it still amazed him sometimes how completely dense the alien could be despite having almost a decade spent on Earth. His lip curled up a bit, not wanting to defend his former childhood bullies, but still wanting to remind Zim of his place.

“Well none of those ‘worms’ have ever stabbed and betrayed me, as far as I can remember!” Dib felt lucid enough to put up a verbal fight, at least.

Zim seemed to physically shrink backwards a bit at Dib’s words, but he was determined to lay it all out of the table. There was no need to hold back if he had the nerve to show up tonight.

“You… you were literally my BEST friend and you KIDNAPPED my sister… and stabbed me! You stabbed me, Zim… Backstabbing is usually just metaphorical but you LITERALLY stabbed me!”

Through his slight slurring, Dib fought off the emotional hitch that threatened his voice. He shivered at the night breeze that came through the still open window, and moved to tug it back closed for the moment. He didn’t even care that he was only in his underwear in front of Zim right now, he was still upset, god damn it.

“I had to go through all this change, all this bullshit, all of it without YOU. Do you have any idea how many times I wanted to talk to you? Hell, how many times I just wanted to be around you?” Dib couldn’t stop everything from pouring out now. “I fucking missed you. You’re the only person-alien, whatever, that could ever understand me. Like, REALLY get it. You’re the only one who even tried to, and I had to push you away because your KIDNAPPED my SISTER- and also STABBED ME! But I still missed you! How fucked up can I even get?” Dib felt near manic as he rambled, knowing his volume was too loud. His hands ran to his hair, trying to slick back the cowlick and any other wild strands that were sticking out.

Zim was clearly trying to contain himself as Dib rambled on, visibly shaking in anger. His claws dug into the black sheets beneath them and held on tight in an obvious effort to stop himself from interrupting with an outburst. Once Dib had finally trailed off, Zim took his opportunity.

“Why did you lie then?” Zim’s tone was accusing.

“Lie about what?”

“You LIE!”

“Dude, shut up! We can’t just yell in here, Gaz is right down the hall sleeping…” Dib felt exasperated. He had lied to Zim plenty over the years, so he couldn’t imagine which scenario Zim was trying to shift the blame to Dib on.

“As I recall, with my immaculate memory, The Dib had promised that he would be keeping in contact with ZIM.” He stated it like he was reporting to some sort of officer. Then his tone shifted, back to something more fragile. “You never called me.”

“I thought I had made my feelings pretty clear.” Dib tried to press on, but was quickly cut off by Zim.

“You made me do ALL the legwork. Not that it was hard getting into the inferior human college systems and finding your schedules, but really! For the amount of time I spent making sure nothing happened to your stupid breakable human body, I at least expected a call.” Zim’s arms were crossed and his gaze was locked on the same bigfoot poster that Dib had been staring at earlier as he revealed this.

It felt like a gut punch. All this time, when Dib couldn’t even bring himself to check on Zim’s video feed more than once, Zim was following him? Dib couldn’t help but crack a smile at how flipped the situation felt, the stalker becoming the stalkee.

“You were watching me? All this time?”

“Duh.” Despite Zim’s confident tone, there was something about his body language that looked so insecure to Dib. The way his arms crossed, clearly intending to seem tough, came off more protective. Zim was still looking away, and his antenna were pinned back tightly against his head. It was charming to no end. Now here, alone and near naked in the same room as Zim after months apart, Dib could feel his walls breaking down.

“I wanted to, though.” Dib’s voice had dropped to something much softer. He knew Zim enough to see through this pompous facade he put up. How could he stay angry? Maybe it was the alcohol, but Dib couldn’t stop the feeling of elated giggles from bubbling up his chest. The thought of Zim silently following Dib around his campus, so skillfully even he hadn’t noticed, it made his chest feel warm. Was it pride? Certainly not, why would he be proud of a trained alien invader being able to blend in? Then again it WAS Zim. It was different though. It was that same warmth that filled him every time he knew that in his own strange way, Zim cared about Dib.

Regardless of everything shitty they had been through, there was always a mutual understanding that they were the only ones who could truly understand one another, and truly handle the extremes they both found themselves going to. With how difficult Zim was to understand, Dib could only fathom how hard Zim tried to understand him in turn. And it was moments like this when it showed. Those little moments when Zim made sure to stock his fake fridge with Dib’s favorite soda flavor, even if he was mocked relentlessly for even thinking about drinking it. The times when Zim, without saying anything, would protect Dib from himself and let him fight out all of his feelings deep underground where no one could hear the battle yells that were just a cheap cover for his tears.

 

And now, even when Dib made it clear he wasn’t ready to talk to Zim, he still followed and monitored Dib like some kind of E.T. style guardian angel. Some might find that creepy, but Dib found his heart fluttering at the thought.

Maybe he would regret it, and maybe it was stupid, but there was always something about Zim that made it impossible for Dib to really stay away.

“Come here, you stupid alien.” Dib spoke in a rasp.

Dib’s hand reached out, roughly grabbing Zim by his invader uniform. His mouth was on Zims in an instant, pressing warm against the strangely soft irken lips. Even with his eyes pressed shut, Dib could sense Zim tense. He pulled back from Zim, not far, but enough to breathe a confession between them.

“Oh, uh, if we’re on the subject of lies... I lied about kisses-”

 

“I know, I have cable you moron.”

The same giggles bubbled up again, but they were quickly muffled as Zim leaned in to reconnect the kiss. It was tender and unsure at first, as the two learned how to move in rhythm to one another. Dib felt like he had been shocked with a bolt of lightning- never in a million years did he think he would actually be kissing Zim like this. But here they were, on his bed, closer than they had ever dared to be before. It was exhilarating, and in that moment every terrible thing they had done to each other was gone from his head. Dib felt rabid, like he couldn’t get enough of Zim. Every motion their mouths made against each other was driving him further into a frenzy, and the two were quick to pick up the pace. All the frustration, the passionate battles, the tender moments they shared, everything was laid bare in this kiss and Dib was determined to chase that feeling as far as it went.

Zim’s tongue flicked out at him, and Dib greedily accepted it into their kiss. It was so strange, a long thin appendage squirming into his mouth and wrapping around his own flat tongue. Dib could feel his breath hitch, followed by a small needy noise from Zim. A strange cold texture pressed against Dib’s chest, and he drew back from the kiss to see it was Zim’s glove covered hand. He took the smaller hand in his own, eyes turned to Zim searching for approval.

“I want to feel you…” His voice still felt slow in his mouth as Dib tugged at the glove, but Zim seemed to understand as he let Dib remove them.

“I swear, if you try to put those on right now.” Zim warned, before quickly distracting Dib from that possibility with more kissing. Hands now bare, the sharp claws and soft pads traveled up and down Dibs chest and belly. He shivered with delight, deepening the kiss and leaning back onto the bed. Zim followed, their mouths seemingly glued together, and happily pinned Dib to the bed as he moved to straddle his belly. They continued that way, kissing and running their hands up and down each other. Somehow he felt more drunk than before. It was Zim who pulled back from their kiss to breathe. Dib used this opportunity to tug the high collar of his invader uniform down far enough to bite and suck at the tender skin hidden away there.

“Eaugh, what are you…” Zim trailed off, the disgust in his voice quickly turning into a moan as Dib marked him with a hickey. Dib laughed at the quick change in reaction, pulling back from Zim’s neck enough to giggle into his collarbone. There was a sharp feeling on his chest, Zim’s nails were threatening to dig into the skin.

“Why did you stop?” Zim demanded.

“I have to breathe too, spaceboy.” Dib let his head flop back and rest against his pillow, watching Zim still straddled above him with a dreamy expression. Zim was wearing an unsure expression in turn.

“You’re leaving.”

“Not right this second.” Dib assured, both Zim and himself. His hand slowly found its way to Zims thigh, wishing it was as bare as his own were right now. Still, reality was shoving its way into his mind. “I can’t just abandon my plans…” He wished that he sounded more sure of himself.

Zim tensed above him. “You are abandoning me instead.” The words cut like a knife.

“I tried to stop you,” He continued. “I keep trying to stop you but you’re still leaving. Then I will officially be all alone. No armada, no human. Nothing.”

Dib sat up, making himself eye level with Zim. They adjusted so Zim sat comfortably in Dib’s lap as they spoke face to face. The desperation in Zim’s voice, the grim reality that he was being left behind all over again. How could Dib have been so stupid? Of course his whole stunt had just been a last ditch effort. It didn’t change the fact that he had put Gaz in danger, but… he was starting to understand more. What levels of desperation would Dib reach if their roles had been swapped?

“No, not nothing…” Dib’s hand reached up to cup Zim’s cheek lightly, his thumb stroking along the sharp jawline. “I’m here.”

“Tonight. Tomorrow you will be gone.”

Dib silenced him with a kiss, brief and chaste. “You act like I’m never coming back. What about our ship?”

Zim looked at him with an unsure expression, an unspoken question between them.

“I mean, how else are we gonna travel space together if we don’t expand that thing?” Dib smiled, continuing to brush his thumb along Zims velvety skin. A slow smile crept across Zims face, sharp teeth poking out just a bit.

Neither he nor Zim were good with apologies. The awkwardness of an ‘I'm sorry’ and admitting you were wrong, it didn’t come naturally to either of them. But it was hardly something that needed to be said now when the two of them understood how stupid they had both been, and Dib smiled back at the goofy alien grin.

“I could never forget about you Zim. Do you have any idea how much brain power I’ve dedicated strictly to you?” Dib laughed slightly, truly unable to imagine his life if Zim had never come to Earth. “You’re not going to be alone, Irken scum.”

And with that, they were kissing again. Slow, drawn out movements as they took the time to learn every sound, taste, and feeling of the other. Dib sighed into Zim as they pressed up together, and he let his hand move from the side of Zim’s face upward toward his antenna. Zim’s grip tightened on Dib as he ran his hand along the stalk. The kiss was broken just enough for Zim to let out a soft moan and tilt his head into Dib’s hand, earning a massage near the base of the antenna. Happily, Dib continued to rub at the tender spot just to watch Zims reactions. Even throughout their friendship, it was rare to see Zim in such an open and vulnerable state. His eyes drank it in, desperate to commit this to memory despite the hazy state of his mind.

“Hey, how far are we taking this?” Dib had no idea what to expect.

“You’re not going to forget Zim, however far that takes this.”

In a quick movement, Zim had pushed Dib back so his head was pressed to the pillow again, and adjusted himself to be between Dib’s legs now. Aside from the invader uniform, the only thing between Dib and the movements Zim was making was the thin fabric of his boxers. Dib already knew he was a little excited from the kissing alone, and it showed between his legs where Zim was positioning himself. Claws gripping into his hips, Dib gasped as Zim rutted up against him.

Dib wriggled his hips upward into Zim’s, the friction building fast. He placed his wrist over his eyes a moment, determined to focus all his feeling on the place where they were connected. What did Zim even have down there? Zim was still fully clothed, but Dib was definitely starting to feel something sizable rub against him. He swallowed dryly, a rush of blood causing his dick to give a twitch.

Zim seemed less confused by the bulge making itself very known than Dib had expected, and he wondered if the alien had done some research. The sex ed provided by the school did it’s best to hide the fact that humans had genitalia at all, so it certainly wasn’t there. Oh God, what if he thinks his dick is super weird and nasty since it’s human?! Wait- He knows way too much about how they work right now for that to be the case... Dib wanted to let out a laugh at the thought of Zim watching porn and taking dubious notes, but it was turned into a whimper when Zim moved to pick up the pace of their dry humping. There was a sizable snake-like appendage wriggling against his own and everything was quickly becoming too much, Dib had to gasp for Zim to slow down. With a growl, Zim obliged and leaned back on his knees to inspect Dib.

Already, Dib was blushing wildly, legs spread and tent fully pitched. He panted softly, forcing himself to calm down before they continued. When Zim grabbed at the elastic band of Dib’s boxers, he lifted himself enough to make it easy for them to be tugged off quickly. By the way Zim was looking, there was a real risk of them getting straight torn off- and Dib needed these.

There was no immediate move from Zim to continue. Instead, he seemed to be taking in the sight of Dib naked and sprawled across his bed. A deeper blush rose to Dib’s cheeks, suddenly self conscious.

“Can I uh.. Take off your tunic?” Dib hoped to level the playing field a bit.

Zim only nodded, and Dib sat up, erection bouncing against his stomach while he reached for the ends of Zims dress. Slowly enough for Zim to change his mind, Dib began lifting the pink fabric and revealed the green skin beneath he had never seen before.

“You’re beautiful…” He breathed, unable to stop the thought from coming out as soon as he had it. There was no regret this time, it was true.

“Of course I am.” Again, Zim’s self assured words didn’t match his nervous tone.

The light from the streetlamp outside illuminated them just enough for Dib to make out the dark shape of something he had never seen before writhing beneath the black leggings. Another twitch from his member caused it to thump against Dib’s belly. He wanted to see it.

Before he could ask to tug off the last thing Zim was left wearing, Dib was shoved back into place just like before. Instead of continuing humping, Zim stayed near his legs and inspected his member. It gave another happy twitch at the anticipated attention.

“It stays still… mostly, right?” Zim asked, hot breath ghosting across Dib’s cock. “It’s for penetrating?”

Dib could only shiver and nod.

“Tell me if I hurt you. At least if I hurt you A LOT, anyway.”

With the backside of his clawed finger, Zim traced a path up along the underside of Dib’s penis from the base to the tip. Maybe Zim was nervous, and normally Dib wouldn’t mind him taking his time, but it was quickly becoming torturous. The fifth or six time Zim ran the same trail up his cock, Dib couldn’t stop his hips from bucking upward into Zim’s hand. He was being such a tease.

“Please… “ Dib whined, giving a second buck when Zim continued to ghost over him. That earned a wicked smirk.

“You like it when Zim touches you?” Pink eyes were narrowed, proud and catlike. He practically purred the phrase.

Dib nodded, his wrist moving across his mouth to muffle any involuntary noises.

“Say it.” Another light stroke, barely there. Through heavily lidded eyes, Dib could make out the shape of Zims antennae twitched around and flicking lightly in the dark. He wasn’t nervous, he was just getting off on teasing Dib.

Slightly embarrassed, Dib complied. “I like it when you touch me…”

“Of course you do.” Another light touch, lingering near the tip this time. His pointer finger swiveled the head, picking up a light drop of the pre cum that had accumulated there. Zim looked at curiously. He regarded it for a moment before that long tongue stretched out of his mouth and gave it a taste. Dib gulped.

“Beg for Zim.”

“Jesus, dude…” Dib couldn’t stop himself from smiling. Was it really a surprise that Zim got off on worship? The answer was of course, no. Luckily, Dib was happy to oblige. He wiggled his hips a little, aching for more stimulation as his dick wobbled a little against his stomach.

“I need you…” Dib breathed. “Please, Zim…”

That seemed to satisfy him for the moment. Zims smile was sharp and wide, but he closed his eyes like an exasperated ruler. “Oh, very well then.”

Finally, Zim took a more firm grasp of Dib’s member and gave it a few good pumps for good measure. A cry sounded from Dib, unable to muffle it behind his hand. After all that build up, finally being touched was pure ecstasy- not to mention it was Zim doing it. Holding Dib’s cock at the ready, Zim lowered his head and gave the tip of it an experimental flick with his tongue. He made a slight face, shrugged, then extended his tongue further to coil around Dib’s length.

The feeling, partnered with the sight, was enough to nearly make Dib lose it right then and there. It took everything in his power to stop himself from orgasming immediately; thoughts of Mrs. Bitters filled his mind in an attempt to combat the overwhelming feeling flooding his body as he squeezed his eyes shut. Old granny titties! Old granny titties! After a moment, Dib decided it was safe to open his eyes again and he took in the sight. He remembered seeing Zim do something like this to a popsicle GIR had given him one particularly warm summer, and how Dib had to keep his imagination from running wild at the time. It would be a lie to say he hadn’t spent time alone fantasizing about this exact thing happening after seeing that. Now here they were.

Zims mouth followed the coiled tongue down the length, soft lips encompassing him slowly all the way to his base. Dib’s breathing came shakily as he gripped his sheets tightly, looking for something to anchor him. He wasn’t even sure of the words that were sloppily spilling out of his mouth, but Zim seemed to respond well to it. Something along the lines of ‘just like that’ and ‘god Zim, you’re so good’. At this, Zim brought his mouth back upward and continued the repetitive motion with enthusiasm. There was a thought somewhere in the back of Dib’s mind of relief that Zim knew not to involve his teeth.

It took everything in Dib’s willpower not to buck upward into Zim’s face, but when he heard a muffled noise of pleasure come from the Invader it was impossible to stop himself. There was a short gagging noise, followed by the feeling of claws digging into his thigh. He wanted them to dig in deeper, not minding if it drew blood. Dib bucked upward again, no accident this time. Zim drug his claws downward, not quite drawing blood but coming close. At this rate Dib wasn’t going to last long. He wasn’t ready to be finished yet, so he called for Zim to stop.

“Zim, stop- I’m gonna…” He huffed, feeling that familiar coil building in his loins. It took Zim a moment but he drew back with an offended expression.

“Was that not satisfactory?” A dribble of slobber ran down Zim’s chin as he glared up at Dib from between his legs.

“God no, you were more than satisfying. But I want to do more…”Dib pulled his legs back and sat up on the bed. His eyes went to Zim’s leggings, still covering the irken. “My turn?”

Zim looked unsure for a moment, as if he couldn’t trust anyone to suck him off but Zim himself. After a moment, he acquiesced with a smirk. “So filthy, can’t get enough of me?”

Dib grabbed Zim by the hips and pulled him closer. “I’ll never be able to get enough of this.” He smirked back, yanking at Zim’s waistband.

They slipped off easily enough with Zim’s help, and next thing Dib knew they were both stark naked. Just as Zim had, Dib paused to take in his partners form. In the warm light from the streetlamp, his skin had almost a golden tint to it. He was shockingly skinny with a broad rib cage which held the single large super organ. Dib supposed that his belly was almost pure muscle, no need for excess organs when most everything was taken care of by the squeedily spooch or the Pak attached to his back. No nipples, no belly button, no hair. It wasn’t far off from what he had imagined, though Zim looked a little scrawnier than Dib had assumed him to be.

His eyes quickly went to the thing he had been most curious about. The thing he had felt pressing against him earlier was now out, wriggling freely in the night air. It reminded him of some kind of tentacle. It was slick and pink, almost the same color as Zim’s bright pink blood. The self lubrication was a plus, since Dib hadn’t brought any supplies with him for the trip home. It was actually surprisingly wet, and Dib would bet that had the lighting in his room been better he would have noticed even when Zim’s pants were still on. It was so strange, so alien, and it made Dib’s erection throb even harder in excitement.

The pink appendage coiled and wriggled around, almost with a mind of its own. Dib wondered how much control Zim actually had over it. He wondered it Zim got unwanted boners the same way he did. He wondered if Zim ever masturbated to the thought of him, the way Dib had. The way it moved gave Dib a few ideas, but he was too close right now to risk anything without coming instantly. Instead, he wanted to try please Zim with his mouth first.

His face only an inch or two from Zim’s cock, Dib looked upward at him for approval. Zim impatiently growled and dug his hands into Dib’s hair brattily.

“What are you waiting for? The next Operation Impending DoO-” Zim was cut off with a choke as Dib took his length in full.

The feeling was strange. It certainly had the stiffness of a sex organ filled with blood, but there was slightly more give to the alien member than a human one. It was slimy, but Dib didn’t mind that. The taste was even more strange, a faint chemical he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but it wasn’t terrible either. It didn’t taste like anything Dib could describe, but he had a feeling the taste would grow on him quickly.

Zim was grunting and huffing noises at almost every pump into Dib’s mouth. The fear that Gaz might wake up any moment and stomp into Dib’s room to interrupt their fun jolted into Dib’s mind, and he pulled away from pleasuring Zim to give warning.

“If Gaz wakes up from your skwaking you’re not gonna have a dick for me to suck anymore.”

Zim was panting and flushed with a bright pink color across his cheeks as he waved Dib off. The pink member was now waving and flopping around more excitedly, searching for the stimulation it had just moments before.

“Yes, yes, I have much reason to fear the Gaz.” He was shaking with his full body. “But I would sooner destroy this whole planet than have you stop again.”

Dib felt pride swell inside him that he could make Zim fall to pieces like this. He allowed his head to be shoved back between Zim’s legs roughly, and gladly took the full member into his mouth again. Pushing himself further, he took in more of the length. Zim’s cock wiggled against his mouth and down into his throat, making Dib gag this time. He held it there as long as he could, until he felt he couldn’t breathe anymore. A few smaller pumps were spent giving himself air before Dib took it as deeply into his throat as he could a second time. His whole body tensed and eyes rolled backward into his head for a moment as his air was cut off. Gasping as he pulled away, Dib couldn't wait longer. He had to experiment more with this amazing appendage.

A growl openly came from Zim as Dib repositioned them, clearly upset that stimulation had been cut off before orgasm. Dib reassured Zim that they would be back to it in just a few moments. Readjusting the pillows, Dib sat against them, upright with his back to the wall. He pulled Zim close, their legs spread and entangled with each other so they sat pelvis to pelvis.

“I wanted to try something.” Dib spoke, giving Zim another tug to scoot a little closer as the alien wrapped his arms around Dibs shoulders, trusting him.

Dib reached between their legs and took Zims member into his hand, allowing it to coil around his fingers. It was slick still, a mix from Dib’s saliva and whatever lubrication Zims body created for it. He guided it to his own dick and let it form around him, squeezing him lightly like an anaconda. The feeling of Zim’s wet cock sliding around his own made Dib gasp and cry out. He moved his hips lightly, feeling his form rub against the way it coiled and grasped the length.

With that, Zim had found Dib’s lips with his own again. They sat there on his bed, rocking into one another for minutes, kissing and murmuring and desperately trying to contain the noise they made. Zim was quick to learn that Dib’s nipples were also sensitive and began playing with them while Dib massaged the base of Zims antenna again.

“You love this.” Zim rasped against Dib’s mouth.

“I love this…” Dib confirmed, his brain completely fogged over. Anything to please Zim.

“You love Zim.” The alien pressed.

“I love Zim.”

They were kissing again, more passionately now. Rougher, with small bites and a tongue that snaked deeper into Dib’s throat.

“And I love Dib.” Zim confirmed, though it hardly seemed to register with either of them in this position humping into each other. Had he been more sober, Dib would have freaked out at the proclamation they had just made. But in this moment with all inhibitions gone, why deny it? Of course he loved Zim. Of course Zim loved him.

“I wanna… take this further.” Dib said, desperately trying to string a coherent sentence together through the bliss his was feeling as they rubbed into each other. Before Zim could protest, Dib pulled away from their entanglement and laid back against the pillows. “I want you inside me, Zim.”

Even with the lack of pupils, Dib could see Zim’s gaze follow his arm downward back between his legs. Dibs fingers were slowly entering himself in preparation. It was slow and gentle, starting with just one finger and then two. Zim looked on, an expression of almost morbid curiosity.

“You’re disgusting, human.” He said, eyes still unblinking and watching as Dib fingered himself. Zim’s body betrayed his words, and his cock seemed to writhe excitedly at the sight.

“I want you to put it here,” Dib winced a little as he stretched himself further. He would need to make sure he was ready for the girth he had already felt in his throat. “but I have to get it ready.”

“So primitive. All this preparation nonsense.” Zim got closer, placing a hand on Dib’s inner thigh.

“Well I’d rather you not tear me in two.” Dib teased, continuing his motions as Zim looked on. “Not tonight, at least.”

Zim smirked at that, before moving his hand from Dib’s thigh to the hand. Removing his own fingers, Dib allowed Zim to take over with a warning not to scratch him. Luckily, Zim was a fast learner. He actually listened to Dib’s instructions as he walked Zim through stretching him properly. Dib was already so horny from everything, it didn’t take too long to have everything prepped. With a nod, Zim removed his hand and positioned himself between Dib’s legs.

Carefully, Zim lined himself up with Dib’s entrance. A clawed hand was wrapped around his own member to keep it in place for him to make sure it didn’t try to coil elsewhere, and slowly he began to press it inside. Dib bit down hard on his bottom lip. Even with stretching, Zim was still sizable enough to hurt as he went inside. Clearly picking up on this, Zim paused.

“Keep going, keep going-” Dib encouraged. He had used enough toys by now to know he just needed to get through it to find that sweet spot. Even though it felt like he was getting split in half by Zim right now, it was still incredibly hot.

Zim made it fully inside, filling Dib to the brim. Not moving quite yet, they stayed locked together as Dib adjusted to his size. Dib’s eyes were squeezed shut but slowly as he relaxed they fell back open and met with Zim’s in the darkness. The two of them stayed completely still, but Dib could feel the uncontrollable wiggling of Zims cock inside his ass tickling him. Zim adjusted his weight a little, and Dib arched his back suddenly, crying out a louder moan than he had meant to. When he had moved, Zim’s member curled in such a way that it brushed directly against the most sensitive spot.

Zim looked concerned for a moment before Dib snapped his eyes back to Zims, drunk with lust and booze. “God, just fuck me, Zim.”

It was all the confirmation Zim needed to start moving his hips more purposefully into Dib. He still started slowly enough, whether to accommodate Dib or because Zim was finding his pace he wasn’t really sure. But it felt amazing. All the times Dib had fingered himself, or found something to use in place while fantasizing about Zim; nothing could compare to the real feeling. With every thrust, the specialized dick would twist and curl inside him in a way Dib had only felt in this moment. It would occasionally brush up against his prostate causing him to cry out louder and with less care for being caught.

Zim himself seemed to be getting lost in the motion as well. Every thrust came with a soft growl, another dig into Dib’s thigh, a gasp. He was quickly picking up in speed, animal-like instincts overriding politeness. Soon enough, he was just trying to get as deep inside of Dib as quickly as possible, causing him to yank Dib’s hips upward so Zim could reposition himself at a slightly different angle to go deeper.

“Ohhh my Dib, my Dib… You’re mine now, you’ve always belonged to Zim.” Zim moaned, rutting hard into his human.

That coiling feeling was building back up in Dib’s loins and he opened his legs further to let Zim in as much as he could. Zim was consistently hitting his prostate now, and it wouldn’t take much more for him to finish at this point. Blind horniness cause a loud yelp to sound from him at a particularly good thrust from Zim, immediately followed by a hand on his mouth silencing him. Dib obeyed, but as soon as the hand slid down to grab his throat for leverage, Dib came undone.

His whole body tensed, and Dib grabbed fistfulls of his sheets as he spilled all over his own stomach. It came in a few waves, the first spurt being the largest and shooting clear up to his neck, and the following few smaller with less mess. Dib was a sweaty disaster, completely spent. With heavy lidded eyes he watched as Zim continued his work humping into him. The alien seemed awfully pleased of himself to make Dib cum so messily, and it didn’t take long for Zim to reach orgasm too. Dib was sure he had “Can Zim bust a nut?” on a notepad somewhere, he’d have to officially fill it out with his findings later

With a few good thrusts, the irkens body curled over Dib and and latched onto his neck with sharp teeth to prevent him from moving while Zim spilled his seed. It actually took a while longer than Dib had expected, as Zim continually growled and moaned into his neck. Dib felt the substance fill him more, and was a little jealous of how long Irken orgasms seemed to last.

Finally, Zim released Dib’s neck. He had leaned so far forward to bite it that their chests had been pressed together, resulting in some of Dib’s own mess to be smeared across Zim too. Unsurprisingly, Zim made a disgusted face at it.

“Absolutely foul.” Zim muttered, trying to brush it off of himself unsuccessfully.

“Really? You seemed to like the taste of it earlier.” Dib smirked, moving only far enough to grab a towel and some stuff to wipe them down with. Zim looked embarrassed when he handed off the towel, but didn’t deny it.

Dib made quick work of cleaning himself off, but allowed Zim to take his time. He understood the little bug alien was a bit of a clean freak. When Zim finally completed, Dib had already put his underwear back on. Zim didn’t seem to really have underwear himself, so he leant Zim a sleep shirt that was much too large for him instead. It wasn’t the first time Dib had seen Zim wearing his clothes, but it was different this time. Zim, now dressed in a Green Day tee shirt, happily crawled to lay up against Dib’s chest. It took him back for a moment, not expecting Zim or Irkens in general to really be the “cuddle after sex” type. He wasn’t about to complain, though.

“I can’t believe was just-” Zim started, but seemed to get lost in the words.

Dib hesitated. “Was it bad?”

“No. I didn’t say that.” Pink eyes glared at Dib with annoyance.

“Good, because personally I had a great time.” Dib couldn’t hide the lopsided smile that probably looked goofy as hell. Zim didn’t seem bothered by it though, and instead puffed his chest out a little in pride.

“Of course you did! You were with ME! And of course Zim was with his human, so naturally it was best.”

They fell into a comfortable silence after that. It was something they had been able to do for a long time, working on various projects side by side all day without speaking a word for even hours at a time. It never felt awkward, it was just comforting to have someone else there. Dib didn’t want to know how late it was, but he dreaded the early wake up he would have to face tomorrow. Things grew foggier and foggier as Dib slipped into sleep finally, but there was still a pair of eyes he could feel watching him fade away.

As Dib fell deeply into his sleep, the colors of the room began to seep away- slower this time. It all drained away, along with Dib’s original memories of the night, until it all became one big swirl and plunged Zim and Dib back into the void for the final time.

___________________________

 

As Dib registered he was back in that same dark space, he turned to look at Zim. In an instant, his heart plummeted to the floor when he saw he was alone this time, Zim nowhere to be found. In a panic, he turned in place, looking into the piercing blackness for any sign of movement. Fear taking over, he called out.

“ZIM!”

Then he opened his eyes. He was laying back on his dorm bed, right beside Zim. He had almost forgotten that the whole experience they had just shared was simulated through those brain probes that Zim had made, and apparently Zim had just removed his own before Dib’s. A blush rose to Dib’s cheeks in embarrassment about his sudden reaction to being left alone in the mind void, only for it to get much brighter when he realized he also had a boner.

Side effects from reliving emotions, he supposed.

At least he wasn’t completely alone in that. Though Dib couldn’t tell if Zim was feeling the same level of arousal, he could see the pinkness that filled his green cheeks as well. Even still, Dib pulled his jacked to his waist to cover the offending body part.

So none of it was a lie after all. Well, he supposed that Zim could be lying about the irken culture side of things, but he certainly wasn’t lying about the fact that they did have sex. They also had… talked.

“Kidnapping my sister still sucks, you know.” Dib said, but there wasn’t a bite in his voice.

“I am… sorry for taking the Dib-Sister.” He sounded serious. Plus it wasn’t often Dib even heard the words ‘I’m sorry’ come out of Zims mouth, let alone directed toward him. “I didn’t know how else to get your attention. But that’s not the point! MY DIB HAS WITNESSED THE PROOF!”

The whole day had been a fucking rollarcoaster for Dib. When he glanced at his watch, not even ten minutes had passed. All of those moments relived in the span of 10 minutes? He blinked his eyes, feeling like he had just relieved years of his life. Dib wondered why Zim didn’t seem as thrown about this as he was.

“I just, I need a second.” Dib said, quickly shutting Zim back down. The Irken visibly deflated. It was clear that he had expected this perfect plan to go off without a hitch, but stupid complicated human emotions were getting in the way yet again. Feeling Zim’s eyes on him as Dib tried to understand everything, the tension in the air grew palpable. Dib stood suddenly.

“I need some air.” He announced, almost leaving before noticing how terrified Zim looked still sitting on the bed. Dib softened, and with a small smile reassured him. “I’ll come back, I promise.”

Zim didn’t seem to relax much at that, but if Dib was going to be productive with this at all he just needed a moment to himself to think. With a nod, he left the dorm room and walked up the tall stairwell that lead to the roof. Normally an alarm would sound when the door was opened, but to Dibs pleasant surprise the building was so old it must have been disabled or broken at some point.

The air was sharp and cold up here, given it was still early January. Dib was thankful for that, it helped clear his mind as everything bounced around wildly. Was it fair for Zim to cherry pick memories like that, just to prove his point? Was this all a manipulation tactic? Was it all fake? Dib wanted to trust Zim so badly, but that didn’t change the fact that he had just watched both of them betray one another.

Then again, he had also watched both of them have each others back. Nothing personal to gain, just genuinely caring about each other. The sparring matches, prom, Bloaty’s, all of it. He thought back to New Years night, how he had told Zim he loved him and how Zim had returned it.

It was still all true.

He gave a muffled groan into his hands before he heard that familiar voice behind him.

“Do you regret being with me?”

Zim had followed him up to the roof, but Dib had to give him at least some credit for waiting at least a few minutes before coming to find him. He turned to look at Zim, and take him im once more. He had donned the classic wig and contacts disguise he still had before coming up to the roof, for fear of bumping into other students Dib presumed. Normally he stood so fierce and proud, but in front of Dib now he looked so unsure of himself. Dib softened.

“No, I don’t regret it at all.” He reassured, motioning for Zim to come closer. “Watching me and you like that, it was like... being in a daydream or something.”

Zim drew closer, and the two of them sat side by side near the edge of the roof. Classes hadn’t fully begun yet, but various students were returning from break and walking the campus again. The two outcasts watched them from high up.

“I think it just shocked me, learning I was basically married.” Dib gave a nervous giggle. “Human relationships don’t typically progress like that. There’s a little more lead up, and usually both parties are aware of the whole being married thing.”

Zim’s pak began to flash in patterns as he thought about what Dib said. Most of what Zim understood about Earth romance was more than likely learned from TV dramas and porn, so Dib had to give him props for trying. He watched Zim think for a moment before gently reaching a hand out to place on Zim’s leg. The pak stopped flashing, and Zim looked up to meet Dib’s eyes.

“What I think we should do is try again.” He smiled.

“But…” Zim’s brows knit. “That’s CHEATING! I have already won my Dib!”

Dib rolled his eyes. “I’m not saying you’re LOSING your Dib- I mean ME. I don’t want to just forget this all happened or walk away from this. I really don’t think I CAN, and I mean… I don’t want to either. Can we just…” Dib looked around aimlessly. “I don’t know! Do more human rituals?”

Zim quirked an eye at Dib, waiting for him to elaborate. “Like?”

“Ugh, like dates, alien boy! Wine and dine me a little before just jumping into bed with me next time. What kinda boy do you think I am?” He was teasing of course, but Dib noticed the way Zims eyes seemed to light up at that.

“Yes, of course!” Zim stood up, posing one foot up on the edging of the roof dramatically and looked out over the campus as if it were his kingdom to conquer. “The ‘wining’ and ‘dining’, its brilliant! ZIM WILL PROVIDE MY DIB WITH THE GREATEST DATE EARTH HAS EVER SEEN, COWER BEFORE MY ROMANTIC POWER!” Zim screamed from the rooftop, followed by a maniacal laugh.

Y’know what? Maybe Dib wouldn’t mind married life after all.