A/N: This is just a quick little oneshot I threw together while I had IZ on the brain. Let me know what you think, I might have the makings of an actual story for sometime in the future!
Zim considered himself athletic. He could run, climb, lift, fight and endure various levels of trauma. In fact, in just the last year he'd been shot with various degrees of fatality, stabbed in many a manner and been punched or kicked in just about every fashion possible. So why was it that despite all of these previous methods of conditioning that he still found himself completely disarmed when the time came time to play the human activity "dodgeball?"
"Alright maggots, gimme two groups of fifteen and find yourself a wall!"
"Who's team captain, Mr. Bose?" a weak-looking red-haired human asked, his frail limb sticking upward next to Zim. The instructor looked confused for a moment before responding.
"Depends; what was your GPA last semester?" the instructor asked.
The red-haired human smiled proudly, "Three-point-nine, Mr. Bose. It would have been a straight four-O if I hadn't had to retake ceramics because I helped Jake mold a bowl for smo–"
"We'll, the captain sure as hell ain't you..." the instructor said wearily, waving the boy away and turning to the gawk-inducing hulk of a child next to him, "Marvin, you feeling charismatic today?"
"Great! Blue team, look to your fearless leader!" They all cast scared eyes in his direction. Marvin belched and began gnawing on his own hand.
The split into two groups, each claiming a side of the gymnasium.
The game appeared simple enough to Zim. The spheres in the center were to be used as thrown weapons with which to eliminate the opposing team members - a goal anyone should be able to empathize with - and furthermore, catching said spheres actually bolstered your own team. It was, at least on paper, no different than a fight in terms of object, strategy and pacing.
"Now I expect you kiddies to remember two things: One, the rules; and two, that they don't put gym teachers on tenure. So if anyone decides that they're too good for some old-fashioned dodgeball and starts cryin' 'Waah, my collar bone shattered, waaah,' just remember that your fathers would be very ashamed of you and just walk it off."
A pensive-looking blonde raised her hand, "What if you don't have a dad, sir?"
"Then your mother would be very ashamed of you." The instructor amended.
"What if you don't have a mother either, Mr. Bose?" A rotund human male asked next.
"Sheesh, then you got bigger problems than sucking at sports. Play ball!"
The man blew his whistle fervently – passionately, even – igniting the torch of ambitious greatness within everyone and allowing them to cower against the padded wall and let the bigger kids dish their breakfast out of them with rubber balls. Just like in a fight, this Earthen game required quick reflexes, stores of stamina and tactical sense— All of which were attributes that seemed to leave Zim's body the second he heard the whistle blow and usher forth a nasty rubber bullet smackdab into his green mug. Zim was sure to make his exit during the maelstrom of the initial slaughter.
He padded silently down the metal steps leading to the locker rooms, rounded a few corners, and unlocked a heavy steel door with a ring of keys he picked off the crazed elderly janitor who was always singing at passing students. Zim figured that the raving loon would notice his missing keys eventually, but it wasn't like this area got a lot of attention from him anyway. He had a positively golden voice, though. For Earthen standards.
He arrived in a more open but dimly lit space used by the wrestling team. Banners hung on the walls denoting championships won and others denoting meets that ended otherwise, the latter much more abundant than the former. A good motivator, Zim surmised, in an individualistic sport like wrestling to be surrounded by both your failures and the failure of others. There was even an old projector screen hanging on the right wall so the team could actively review that failure. The large concrete pillars were wrapped in protective padding and most of the floor was matted. Both were patched up and frayed in places, and Zim could still detect the sour smell of human perspiration.
Tak sat on the stack of padding against the left wall. Only the corners of her mouth perked up upon Zim's arrival, the rest of her staying slumped and contracted like a dead spider, the dark bangs of her human disguise draping past her face like old moss. He cast a raised eye and a subtle scowl in her direction as he locked the door behind him.
"Zim," she greeted in that flat-but-condescending tone she'd mastered oh so well, much to Zim's lament.
"Tak," He greeted back in that throat-searing brogue that was only half-voluntary. "Tak. Blech, what a name."
Zim walked to the center on the room, a pillar passing between the two Irkens. He half-expected her to be gone once he passed, with the sight of her empty perch followed curtly by a stabbing pane at the base of his neck, then blackness. Instead she remained seated and Zim let go some of the tension in his shoulders. In fact, she hardly registered him at all, her focus set on her nails.
"I heard the human girl Jenny McClairen complaining about her nails earlier today; such a silly thing to be worried about..." She mused.
Zim scoffed at this, "Nails... I was once marooned on Yardorn-Three with little more than a sidearm and my PAK, both on half-charge." He smiled, pleased with the memory, "I conquered the planet in a day."
She snorted at this, "The simulations don't count, Zim."
"They're made to represent the real thing!" He shot back quickly, crossing him arms and looking away.
"So are Jenny's nails, evidently," Tak added absently, "She's also ninety pounds bellow the weight that's healthy for an average human female and wears enough makeup to mold her own death mask."
Zim smiled in a smug fashion, "These creatures starve themselves, poison themselves, harm themselves for amusement, and start wars out of boredom, and then they wonder why extended deep space travel eludes them. Pathetic, I say."
"They must just be terrified of you, Zim." Tak said, straightening her back with her face lighting up in a mocking fashion. Zim just frowned.
Tak hopped off the pads and smoothed down her outfit. Had Zim not known better he'd say she was taking fashion advice from Gaz. Her hardened boots spawned footsteps that reverberated through the space.
"Which of those vile communal work camps did you escape from?" Zim asked, eager to hear of another structural weakness in this place they called "Hi-Skool."
"Advanced Placement English," she answered with a tinge of bitterness, "which is neither advanced in its curriculum nor discriminating in its placement. Honestly, I think I have a more competent grasp of the human's language than they do."
"Yes, yes, all news to me— How did you get out?" Zim pushed. The lewd grin she gave him was already enough of an answer and Zim did his best to hide his gulp, still maintaining a stone facade.
"The class's instructor seems to have a thing for younger girls, and I just exploited his weakness - sick as it may be - to my advantage. I suppose this kind of look is more appealing to certain eyes." She said, obviously pleased with herself, "A smile here, a knowing glance there– I pretty much have the man eating out of my hand. In fact, I'm meeting him after school for some...'tutoring.'"
"Ugh, you're sick." Zim said, his tongue hanging out.
"Don't get jealous, I have plans for him that are quite to his contrary." She said.
"Pfft; Zim? Jealous!? What do you take me for, a h—" A firm shove cut off what would have been a searingly witty and hysterically original barb, and he stumbled back a few steps.
"I take you for someone who lets his guard down," Tak answered with a more serious tone.
Zim straightened his hoodie and stepped closer, squaring up. He kept his rear foot on its toes. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, Tak; always lacking patience."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Zim; always engorged with bravery."
Zim disciplined his stance; hands up and elbows in. Tak kept her hands down but squared her feet. The two started circling each other, feeling each other out, thinking ten steps ahead and then some.
He saw a twitch in Tak's shoulder and suddenly a blur between them. He dropped his weight to his back foot and leaned back only to see the strike was a feint. They kept circling. Tak feigned another strike and Zim batted it down and answered with his own that was also parried and countered with a shove to his front shoulder, stumbling him. His teeth ground together behind pursed lips.
Tak's leading shin came up in what would have been a kick, and Zim's leg came up in a motion that would have checked it. They studied each other, both looking for any opening that could be capitalized on.
Then suddenly Zim switched his stance and threw a right, a left and another right, all of which Tak dodged with ease, coming back with four quick shots of her own, all of them dodged much more thinly by Zim. But where Zim relented, Tak pressed onward, hitting Zim with an inside leg kick that buckled the limp, and then an outside leg kick to the same spot, putting Zim on one knee. She flattened him with a half-powered spinning kick to his chest.
Zim exhaled in irritation and kipped up to his feet, dusting himself off and squaring up again. Tak's hands were still low, but her eyebrow raised. This lit something in her opponent, something she had seen before but never been impressed by.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Zim..."
"Enough of this tsk-ing!" He yelled back.
He came at her in a similar fashion, and it ended roughly the same way; he would lash out at her, trying to knock her out and make her bleed, and she would move around him like a cloud of insects, making him falter. She let him make the mistake, and then she pounced. The counter, the breakdown and then, once again, Zim was on the floor, this time on his belly.
"You can still go back up and join your classmates if you like," Tak suggested.
"Ow! Mr. Bose, I think I tore my ACL!"
"Rub some dirt on it!"
Zim got to his feet, nursing his neck, "I don't think I'd be much more successful up there."
Tak adjusted her leggings and lowered her stance, "Then come at me."
Zim threw a kick aimed at her head that she leaned back to evade, and Zim took initiative and rushed forward with a viscous left haymaker. Tak ducked to one knee and quickly pivoted, planting one hand on the floor and coming about with a spinning roundhouse kick from the ground, striking Zim right in the jaw and twirling him like a top. He stumbled to his knees, drawing a grin from the female Irken.
As Tak got to her feet, expecting another break in the action, Zim scrambled back into fighting form and rushed Tak suddenly, jumping up and feinting a mid-air kick from his left and instead throwing a kick from his right. Zim took pleasure in seeing her block it; it did no real damage and Tak's expression never faltered, but at least he'd touched her this time. He was getting somewhere.
He followed up with an uppercut that she leaned away from and Tak threw a straight that Zim slipped and grabbed onto, turning his hips for a throw. Tak let him carry her, but not in the way he intended. Zim was caught off-guard when Tak cartwheeled over his shoulder and popped him with a jab. He staggered back, eyes wide and quizzical, and she hit him in the chin again. When he put up no defense yet stayed on his feet, Tak hit him with a hard right hook, then a shot to the midsection, and a side kick to the ribs. Each blow sent him back a few steps, his feet carrying him drunkenly backward towards the wall.
Tak saw the vacuous look in Zim's eyes, decided he looked no different than when he had entered this bout, and finished their little dance with a wide head kick, spinning herself around and walking back towards the stack of pads as Zim fell limp against the wall and slid down.
Tak hopped up and sat down, one leg folded against her chest, the other stretched out.
She would be lying to herself if she were to say that she didn't take pleasure in wailing on Zim on an almost daily basis. Irkens were a fairly sadistic race, being inherently delighted by the pain of others, and Irkens like her were bred for combat. Fighting was what felt good, be it with firearms, blades, bludgeons, or from the helm of a starship; but what felt best was using her hands, or in this particular case, her feet.
It also didn't detract from her good spirits that these "sessions" were Zim's idea. Ever since the recent fiascos had died down, Zim had become worried of growing "weak in his arm and blunt in his wit." For once, Tak understood; Zim refused to let this planet soften him. And if the solution was to subject himself to a quick, highly skilled beating, then she was happy to oblige. "If it makes you feel better" Tak always thought when she drove her fist into his jaw.
A dark green sheen on the toe of her footwear caught her eye. She frowned. "That defective runt got blood on my boots."
His legs felt light and his jaw felt heavy when Zim came to. He groaned for a good long while, kneading various sections of his face. By now his PAK had done away with most of the bruising, but the pain would have to leave the old-fashioned way.
He may have felt bad, but he was sure Tak felt worse. He might not have been able to incapacitate her to any meaningful degree, but now he was positive he had seen the best items in her catalog of pain. Next time, he told himself, he would be the victor.
He got to his feet, leaning on the wall, and suddenly felt very nauseous. Those shots to the body would haunt him all day. That conniving harpy probably bruised his squeedlyspooch. And, to and extent, his pride.
It didn't help when he heard the doors that led to the practice field swing open and the majority of the football team marched down the ramp and into the wrestling room, probably to skin animals or mix war paint or whatever it was the human gladiators did.
"Alright boys, we're gonna finish up today easy, review some film, talk about who's starting this weekend and..." Mr. Bose trailed off when he and the others saw Zim. "Hey, green kid, this room is for champions only. What the hell are you doing down here?"
Zim choked back another bitingly funny and crippling satirical verbal stab, not wishing to contend with the biggest, scariest kids in the building. Instead he just moonwalked into the shadows as swiftly as he could manage, and before they finished looking at each other in bewilderment, he was gone.