Warning: Gaz is Out of Character for part of this. I hope it's not too bad... and to quote my room-mate, she IS human after all. (We think. ^_^)
This is the last part.


Part 7 - Hope

Gaz managed to get Zim back to his base without getting him wet again, with a little bit of help from Dib's trench coat and her dad's car. The rain was already abating somewhat when she approached the tiny green house and she turned down the setting on the windshield wipers one notch.

A little white corvette was already parked in front of the house, which forced Gaz to park a house down. She watched, bored and with her fingers drumming against the steering wheel, as a green colored dog walked out of Zim's house and down the steps on his hind legs. She raised both eyebrows when the dog got into the white car.

"Uh... your robot just got into a car," Gaz reported dryly to the person curled up in the back seat.

"Yes, yes, that is normal," Zim replied, mustering up the effort to wave a hand in the air. He didn't look up though. "He likes to take in human activities at night."

Gaz watched as the car drove off with a loud squeal of tires on wet pavement, then pulled forwards into the now vacated spot and put the car into park. She turned off the engine. "What *kind* of human activities?" She asked, turning and looking down at Zim.

The alien, who had had his eyes closed in exhaustion since climbing into the back seat of the Membrane car, cracked one open a slight bit. "I am... not sure." He admitted. "Something called a 'rave' I think."

Gaz stared for a moment. "You're kidding," She said. Then she shrugged. "Eh." She had definitely seen stranger things in her days. What with her brother a self proclaimed paranormal investigator, and an alien who lived a few blocks away...

Zim re-closed his eyes and relative silence passed where the only noise was the raspy but steady sound of his breathing. After a moment Gaz spoke up again. "Do you want to try for your house?" She asked.

Zim opened both of his red eyes and looked up. He inspected the window where a thin sheet of rain was continuing to pour down it and shuddered ever so slightly. "Can we stay here until it... eh, goes away... a bit?" He asked hopefully, making a 'go away' gesture with his hand.

Gaz nodded. "Sure," She replied amiably. She watched as the alien smiled in happy contentment and nestled deeper into Dib's trench coat.

Gaz frowned again as she turned her head and looked out of the window herself. Her eyes traced the raindrops as they fled in lines down the slick wet pane of glass. The windows were beginning to fog and idly she traced pictures in precipitation.

She traced a heart shape into the moisture then quickly wiped it out again. She frowned deeper. 'Caring for someone takes a lot of work,' she thought to herself gloomily. When she got home from school today, she had hoped for some down time to herself in which she could sulk and gloom over her feelings, and continue to at least pretend to be upset at Dib. She had never expected to be knocked unconscious and then have wake up to have to run out the door in a desperate bid to save a life.

She glanced up, and reached for the rearview mirror, turning it down a bit so that it showed her the small creature in the back. He was curled, with a comfortable look on his face, half drowned in the folds of Dib's trench coat. He was so tiny. Though Zim had mysteriously gained a couple of inches since elementary skool, it wasn't nearly enough to keep up with the other rapidly growing human boys and girls through to high skool. He was now about a head shorter than everyone else, most of the girls included. Which though it didn't make him inhumanly small, it certainly made him stick out.

"I thought you didn't need sleep," She asked after a moment.

The red eyes slid open part way. "I don't," The Irken replied. "I'm just resting." The eyes shut again.

For some reason that caused a strangely soft look cross Gaz's face. It also made her think even more dark thoughts. Like how close, exactly, she had come to losing him that day. Her heart had nearly stopped when she had seen what she had very recently come to dread had apparently come to pass. Zim, her alien, hurt and in pain. And just when he was trying so hard to conform, to become one of a race he never really liked in the first place. She saw red then, and had very nearly leapt on Dib in a rage, when Zim had spoken up in her brother's defense. She almost hadn't believe it if she hadn't seen her brother turn back with her own two eyes and give Zim his trench coat. Dib loved that trench coat. He had whimpered and whined for months when he grew out of the last one years ago, and this one had become just as important to him as the other.

She sighed and watched the rain. It was abating somewhat, but still... they may be stuck in the car for a little while longer...

Suddenly she turned, and crawled over the front seat into the back of the car. Zim's eyes reopened to watch her. After some wiggling Gaz managed to squeeze herself into the small space between the front seat and the back. She placed herself down on the floor of the car and settled herself. After a moment she laid her head on her arms on the seat, her face inches away from Zim. "Hello," She mumbled.

The surprised and somewhat curious look on Zim's face faded back to tired satisfaction. "Hello... filthy human," He replied.

Gaz surprised herself by laughing at the familiar insult. She playfully thumped the alien on the shoulder.

Actually, if she stopped to think about it, the whole entire thing was deserving of some laughter. Here she was, a 15 year old girl in the back seat of a fogged up car she had stole from her solitary parent, with a boy she liked, who also just happened to be an alien-thing; all as the rain beat a soft pattern on the windshield in a very romantic sort of way. It was perfect. Granted it certainly wasn't where she saw herself five years ago, (she saw herself in all sorts of ways, but never with an alien boy and with romantic added into the mix), but it was funny none-the-less.

Still smiling she reached out. She traced her black painted fingers along Zim's cheek, pleasantly surprised when he didn't jerk away at all. He didn't even flinch. "The green has returned to your cheeks, alien," She noted dourly.

The eyes had drooped back down to half way again. "I am ZIM," the alien returned matter of factly. "... I heal fast."

Gaz chuckled and shook her head. She continued to trace small patterns across the alien's skin in a slow languid gesture, her fingers soft as they ghosted across Zim's skin. The skin was smooth and poreless beneath her fingertips, almost leathery and pleasant to the touch.

Her fingers traveled upwards, brushing across his forehead, then over, to the antennae. These were very different to the touch; hard, coarse and grooved beneath her fingers. In light of the fact that she wasn't getting any protests, she took one between her thumb and forefinger, drawing them up gently.

Suddenly Zim reacted, his eyes falling closed as he tilted his head back. "Mmmm." He mumbled. Gaz stopped moving her hand halfway up the antennae, and gave the alien a questioning look.

One of Zim's hands carried up to lay across her wrist, neither holding her hand in place nor drawing it away. His blood red eyes reopened languidly and peered at her. "That feels good," he explained past the contented smile on his face.

For a moment Gaz considered that. Then something inside her chest flip-flopped. "Oh." Flushing suddenly, she went to remove her hand, only to have Zim's fingers tighten on her wrist ever so slightly.

"Its okay." Zim said seriously. After a moment he seemed to realize that he was holding her wrist in place and, mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like an apology, withdrew his hand quickly.

On a whim, Gaz reached out and caught it before it could disappear back into the folds of Dib's trench coat. Zim let her have his hand... or at least didn't try to jerk it away. Curious now, she traced the thin pale fingers with her own. The fingers were so tiny and thin, almost skeletal, and there was one less of them than found on a human hand. She brought her other hand up and curved the fingers forwards gently, raising an eyebrow as they seemed to naturally fall into the clawed shape she was so used to. Zim held them there for a moment then made a small swiping motion in the direction of her face. She caught the hand and laughed, pleased. Still holding the hand between both of hers, she turned to look at Zim.

The alien's eyes were still half closed and he was watching her with an enduring look on his face.

Smiling, Gaz decided that since he was tolerating her she was going to continue, and went back to playing with the hand, and further still, tracing her fingers down to the wrists.

She stopped suddenly, her smile fading. "What's this?" She questioned, taking Zim's wrist and moving it up so that she could see it better in the dim light coming from outside the car.

Zim's eyes widened. "Nothing!" He said quickly, jerking his wrist away.

Gaz went for them again. "Where those... rope marks?" She asked incredulously. She could have sworn she saw two rows of grooved indentations on Zim's wrist. From the quick glimpse of it she had gotten they had looked like they went all the way around...

Zim was sitting up now, and scooted right across the back of the car to press against the inside of the door on the other side. "No!" He said again. "No, no of course not!" He waved a hand about in a dismissive gesture. "Don't be silly-- ahhh!!" He jumped as Gaz grabbed for his waving hand. She caught it and a small struggle ensued. Gaz finally managed to wrestle the alien into a bit of a neck hold and reclaimed a wrist. She studied the marks for a long moment, then caught the other wrist to confirm what she saw. Zim stopped struggling and sighed.

Finally Gaz let him go. She backed off a bit and frowned at Zim, her eyes flashing with anger. "You lied to me," She said, her voice soft and dangerous.

Zim shook his head. "It's not what you think!" He tried quickly.

Gaz's hands balled into fists and her eyes narrowed. "Oh yeah? Then what IS it Zim?" She asked with a growl.

Zim leant further against the car door and gulped. "Well you see..." he hesitated and fidgeted, his eyes darting about nervously. "I mean..."

Gaz folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow. "Tell me the TRUTH Zim," she snapped. Suddenly something occurred to her and she blinked. "Why the hell did you cover for him anyway?" She asked, incredulous.

Zim sighed and looked down. "It's complicated." The alien mumbled.

Gaz's jaw dropped. She was across the car and face to face with Zim in an instant. "WHAT'S complicated about it?" She breathed.

Zim stared at her wide-eyed. "It's just-- I mean... I didn't...!" He gestured frantically. "I didn't want you to knoowww..." He finally said, his voice ending in a whine.

He flinched as Gaz raised a fist. "Why Zim?!" She demanded to know. "Why not? Tell me or I swear I'll break something..." The instant the words left her mouth she regretted them. Zim's eyes grew very large and he cringed away, both of his hands held out in front of himself defensively.

Gaz forced herself to calm. She shut her eyes and nodded, then reached out. "Hey," she said in a slightly exasperated, but much kinder voice. She fingered a cheek, mentally kicking herself when Zim twitched away. "I'm not really going to hurt you Zim," she grumbled at him.

The alien blinked. "No, no of course not." Zim said, patting her hand away. He sounded relieved anyway.

"... So are you going to tell me?" Gaz asked him, replacing her offending hand in her lap. She raised an eyebrow pointedly.

The alien looked at her solemnly. "I didn't want you to be angry at him," He said finally in a tiny voice.

Gaz's jaw threatened to drop again. All thoughts of remaining calm swiftly fled from her mind. "Angry at him?" the girl shouted. "He DRUGGED me Zim!" She went to shake her fist, but stopped herself before she did. "How on earth did you think that I wouldn't be angry at him?"

Zim stared at her for a long moment. Then he looked down again. "I don't know." He muttered.

Gaz grunted. Reaching out she carefully extracted one of Zim's hands from his lap and studied the wrist. The alien let her patiently. "I'm going to kill him," she said after inspecting the half-healed rope marks carefully. "What did he do, tie you up and leave you to be rained on somewhere?"

Zim shook his head. "Yes. And no. Gaz..." He shook his head at her in earnest. "Don't kill him."

Gaz snorted and dropped the wrist. He was STILL trying to protect her brother. She folded her arms back across her chest. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't Zim," She grumbled at him.

Zim looked at her. "Because he doesn't understand," the alien said finally.

Gaz threw her hands in the air. "UnderSTAND??" she shouted, coming dangerously close to loosing her temper again. "What's there to understand?!"

"Everything! Nothing!" Zim reached out and grasped her shoulders. "Listen to ZIM!" He said desperately. "Listen to meee!"

Gaz blinked, opening both of her eyes wide. "... okay." She agreed after a moment.

Zim nodded, satisfied, and leaned back again. "You humans are worse than caredian wummats." He explained. "You can't change rules for humans unless you explain the changes out in INTIMATE detail. I didn't actually TELL the Dib-human that I was done fighting with him... and then I start hanging out with you, his sister. Of COURSE he's going to think I'm going to do something horrible to you!" He made a gesture with one of his hands. "Or something..."

The anger on Gaz's face faded to something much more uncertain. "... Is that what he thought?" She asked after a moment. "That you where going to do something horrible to me?"

A fleeting smile crossed Zim's face. "Yes," He replied. He absently massaged a wrist. "He was very concerned about you." He added kindly.

Gaz sighed. "Stupid Dib. I can't believe..." She sighed again and pressed a forefinger and thumb against the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. For a long moment she remained like that, as if warding off a massive headache. "I still want to kill him," She said after a moment, the tone of her voice weary. She *was* wearied, and uncertain thoughts and emotions she wasn't used to were battering around inside of her head. "Just for being so *stupid*..."

A hand touched her arm. Another joined it and finally Zim laid his head against her upper arm briefly. "Don't," The alien said before straightening again. "Please."

Gaz blinked and reached over to pat the alien on the shoulder. "Yeah sure," She replied, more surprised than anything. "Boy you've changed," She remarked. Looking down at him she almost missed the old Zim, who couldn't stand touch and would laugh with manic glee if someone said something like 'I want to kill Dib'...

"I had to. To survive." Zim replied honestly. He craned his neck up to look at her. He grinned. "I've become very good at this surviving-thingy... you've helped." His smile faded. "Don't be angry at your brother," He asked again seriously.

Gaz alternated between being tired and being frustrated and finally opted on an odd combination of both. "Okay, okay," she huffed. "... I still don't know why you're defending him," she added after a moment.

Zim looked away. "I'm just tired of fighting," He replied honestly. He looked back at Gaz. "Your brother was looking out for you. You can't fault him for that. If there is something else I've leant about you humans is you like to look out for one another... look at Dib. He defended not only you, but the entire human race for YEARS... which was a tremendous effort... especially against the likes of ZIM!..." he trailed off and looked up at the window. "Hey!" He exclaimed. "The rain stopped!" He jumped up excitedly and went for the handle. "Victory for ME!!"

Then again, maybe he hadn't changed much. Shaking her head slightly, Gaz followed the hyper little alien out the door.


Dib was sitting silently at the kitchen table, still mulling over the days events when his sister finally came home about two hours later. He heard the car first as Gaz parked it in the back. Then he listened as the girl came in the front way and hung up her coat. She approached, her footsteps stopping at the entrance to the kitchen. Dib didn't look up.

There was a long moment of silence. Then Gaz spoke.

"You tried to kill him," She said. It was a statement of fact.

He didn't deny it. He still didn't look up, unwilling to meet her eyes. Instead he looked down, turning his hand over and studied the palm... tracing the lifeline idly with the index finger of the other hand. Zim had lied for him. She wasn't supposed to have found out. But then of course she would have found out. His sister *wasn't* dumb.

"I saw his wrists," Gaz continued when her brother didn't reply, her mouth pressed into a firm straight line. There was more silence. She sighed. "He's going to be okay," She said.

"I know." Dib mumbled. He did. He hadn't spent the last five years studying Zim for nothing. He knew that Zim healed faster than any human did. Something about his alien anatomy... or perhaps something in the technology in his pak kept him going. That didn't help him feel any better about what he had done, but still...

Gaz sighed when it became apparent that Dib wasn't going to respond to her beyond a "I know". Walking over to the table she deposited Dib's trench coat onto it. Dib schooled a flinch, waiting for his sister to lash out at him.

"That was a horrible thing to do Dib," She said softly after a moment. Dib looked up at her, surprised. Gaz didn't look angry... though that didn't mean anything, she could easily get mad fast enough. But instead his sister just looked tired. She gave him a long searching look before continuing. "You're not in elementary skool anymore." She said pointedly.

Dib looked away. Abruptly he shoved his chair back and got up from the table. "Damn it Gaz, I know that, I..."

"Life isn't one huge conspiracy out to get you Dib," Gaz continued calmly. "Or me."

Dib opened his mouth and closed it again. He turned and looked at his sister. She merely looked back at him, the same somewhat tired expression on her face.

"Gaz?" He questioned after a moment. When all she did was look at him, he pressed on, confused. "Why aren't you mad?" He asked.

Gaz stepped forwards. Dib automatically stepped back a step. Gaz stepped forwards again, all the while backing her brother towards a wall. Dib started when he bumped into it. "I *am* mad Dib," she said calmly, her voice now deadly as she continued to advance on him. She reached him, and reached out, gathering up his shirt on either side of his neck in fists. "So incredibly mad at you. I could kill you you know. Rip off your limbs, one by one." She paused, taking in the alarmed look on his face for a moment before leaning close and continuing. "But I'm not going to." The alarmed look on Dib's face didn't decrease any with that revelation.

"You're so stupid," Gaz said with almost no heat to her voice. Then her hands tightened. "You stupid blind JERK, all you care about is your stupid paranormal shit-- you can't even see things in front of your own face..." Emotion filled her face and she stood up on tip toe, so that her face was only inches away from Dib's. "Well you know what Dib?" She breathed. "I hate you." Her hands released their fists, and came back down again to thump once against his chest. "I hate you, I hate you," She thumped back down on her heels and her forehead fell against Dib's chest. "I--" Her voice broke and she let out an odd wrenching sob, crumpling loosely against him.

Dib froze. Then the realized what was happening. His sister... his sister was crying. "Gaz..." He began pleadingly, as the choking sounds continued, wondering what on earth he was supposed to do. He had never seen his usually apathetic sister cry about anything, let alone cry about something while leaning against him...

And it didn't sound like she was going to let up any time soon either. He brought his arms up to wrap them awkwardly around her shoulders. "Shh..." He tried soothingly. "Come on, Gaz..." He tried again, very slightly embarrassed.

"I can't do this," She finally managed to gasp out between the sobs. "I can't do this, Dib." Her head thumped against his chest again and she gripped the fabric of his shirt harder. "I can't--" Her voice broke again, heralding a new wave of tears.

Sighing, he pressed his cheek against her hair. "Can't what?" He asked gently.

"Fuck you Dib," she replied between gasps of breath. "I wanted to help him." She gripped his shirt and glared up at him out of reddened eyes. "I don't know why, but I wanted to anyway. I *cared*." She repeated. Gaz managed to look plenty scary, despite the tears rolling down her cheeks. "And then you, you fucking asshole, go and play the fucking hero and p-pull a stunt like that..."

Dib managed a tiny little pained smile as he looked down at her. "Ah..." Was all he said. "... I'm sorry." He added, knowing that he sounded like an idiot.

"You're sorry? You just tried to kill someone and you're SORRY?" Dib winced and tried to draw back a bit, sure that his sister would get plenty mad now. Surprisingly enough she didn't. Instead her head went down against his shirt again. "I *hate* this..." she said, her grating voice muffled in his shirt. "I hate it..."

"Shh..." Dib murmured. "It's okay." He added, then felt slightly foolish as that comment just caused a fresh wave of tears and curses.

After a while the tears slowed and finally she relaxed, her face still buried in his shirt. Her hands unclenched and she pressed them against him in a half hearted gesture to push him away then ended up remaining there. He continued to hold his sister as her smallish frame was wracked with small after shocks. He leant his head back and looked up at the ceiling and just continued to hold her. This is the first time I've ever hugged Gaz by choice he reflected mildly. It was oddly... nice. His family was one of the least touchy-feelly families in the world... he could count on one hand the amount of times that his father had ever hugged him or said he loved him. Same went for Gaz and his mother... well he had been too young to remember his mom...

After a moment Gaz calmed down completely and slowly pushed away from Dib. Dib looked at her.

"I can't believe I just did that," Gaz mumbled, wearily rubbing at an eye. "I guess I'm just really tired." She explained after a moment. She studied the floor. "Didn't get much sleep last night."

Why? Dib thought. What was she... he cut off his thought, shaking his head slightly. It really shouldn't matter to him what his sister was doing the night before. It doesn't concern you, he reminded himself.

"... And I just had a really shitty day, no thanks to you." Gaz added. She turned around and wandered across the kitchen in search of a tissue. "I mean it's not often when your brother tries to tell you what to do with your life, drugs you AND tries to kill your friend."

Dib winced mentally. Ouch.

"And lives to tell about it," Gaz added with a small huff of frustration. She found the Kleenex box on the counter behind one of their father's science experiments and extracted a tissue from it.

"I said I was sorry, Gaz." Dib studied the floor for a moment then looked back up. He felt more than a little awkward and didn't quite know what to do about it. He definitely wasn't used to this trying to communicate with his sister thing. Hugging was one thing... talking was another. "I..." He hesitated for a moment. "I meant what I said." He finally said. "I did a lot of thinking before you got here and..." He sighed and ran a hand though his unruly hair. "I'm not going to stalk Zim anymore 'kay? It's obvious that he's changed. I mean he hasn't tried to take over the world recently or anything..."

Gaz turned back around and shot him a disbelieving look. "No shit." She said sarcastically.

Dib glared for a brief moment, then sighed again. "So I made a mistake okay?" He tossed his hands in the air. "I mean it's not like anyone ever tells me anything! How am I supposed to know these things if no one ever TELLS me anything?"

Gaz blinked, recognizing Zim's statement. 'You humans are worse than caredian wummats. You can't change rules for humans unless you explain the changes out in INTIMATE detail. I didn't actually TELL the Dib-human that I was done fighting with him...'

Gaz sighed herself. "You can always ASK, you know," She mumbled from behind the Kleenex. She blew her nose and tossed it out, before turning back towards the table and taking a seat.

After a moment Dib wandered across the room and joined her. "I could," The boy agreed neutrally, pulling out a chair himself and sitting in it.

"So no more trying to kill Zim." Gaz said.

Dib nodded, the stopped. "Well... you know, he may just decide he wants to kill *me*..."

"He's not going to," Gaz replied quickly. She looked at her brother. "I told you Dib," She said, the frustration evident on her face. "He just wants to be left alone."

Dib managed a bit of a smile. "I know," He replied softly. He did.

"If you must know, he didn't want ME to hurt you," Gaz remarked sourly.

Dib raised an eyebrow. Ah. he thought. Well, that explains why I'm still alive...

His sister gave him a look out of the corner of her eye. "And what are you going to do if I decide to continue hanging around Zim?" She asked pointedly.

Dib shrugged. "I'll learn not to care so much?" He offered seriously. At the same time he felt another little wave of sadness run through him. Ah well. It wasn't like he was going to loose his sister completely... after all he still LIVED with her. And she didn't really hate him, or else they wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

"Good." Gaz looked away and drummed her fingers against the table. A moment or so passed. Then-- "You're not going to tell anyone I-- *cried* --are you?" Gaz asked, suddenly finding the pattern in the wood table very interesting.

That was too much. "Oh yeah Gaz," Dib rolled his eyes. "And who, exactly, am I going to tell? Zim? He'll probably pitch a fit about you leaking corrosive water, and then tell you that you are unworthy of his alien charms and then..."

"Oh be quiet." Gaz shot her brother a dirty look and got up from the table quickly. It wasn't before Dib saw the faintest hint of red that crawled across Gaz's cheeks. He forced back a smirk. Sadness at 'loosing' his sister aside... now that he had to get used to this whole alien x his sister thing, he realized that this could actually be quite fun. He had never had the opportunity to bug Gaz about BOYS before. She had never liked one of them before. Heck, she had never liked much of anything...

Gaz ignored the amused look on her brother's face. "I'm going to bed." she muttered. She trekked over to the entrance of the kitchen, then paused. "Disturb me and..." She cut herself short all of a sudden. For a moment she thought then turned back around to look Dib in the eye. "Just don't disturb me, okay?"

A mild smile crept across Dib's face. "Goodnight Gaz." He replied.

Gaz gave a little snort and turned and left the room.


Dib may have worked things out with his sister somewhat, but he was still... uncertain about going anywhere near Zim the next day at school.

Gaz and him had walked to school the normal way they usually did... in silence. He was almost relieved to see that his sister had returned to her normal silent grumpy self... at least around him.

In fact she had remained her normal anti-social self, right up until they had reached the skool and went to walk their separate ways... she had turned back with a "See ya at lunch, Dib?"

All he could manage was a shrug and a "may-be". Lunch invariably meant Zim. He wasn't sure if he could deal with that just yet.

He wasn't mad, just uncomfortable.

Even so he spent the entire mornings classes psyching himself up for the moment. He practically wrote a script in his head, going over everything from "No hard feelings, 'kay?" and "So my sister has a crush on you..." He rejected those, just like he rejected most of them. But he was determined to at least try. Come on Dib, he thought at himself. You can do this talking thing... it's not THAT hard...

Lunch came. He gathered up his tray... began to walk across the cafeteria to where Zim and his sister were already seated... and conveniently acquired cold feet right before reaching their table.

He never knew torturing someone nearly to death would lead to such a beautiful array of shame and guilt. It was quite interesting.

Because of this he recharted his course and instead opted to sit near the far back of the cafeteria and off to the side. As he sat and began to eat his lunch, he watched Gaz and Zim out of the corner of his eye. Occasionally, especially at first they would glance over at him, Gaz especially. After discerning that Dib wasn't coming over to eat with them, Gaz finally turned her attention back to her food.

It was about then that Dib realized that his sister wasn't reading a book or playing a game. Now curious, he watched-- all the while pretending he wasn't.

He ended up being witness to the oddest thing. Gaz, instead of being anti-social like he had been so used to, was talking with Zim. He couldn't hear them from his vantage point across the cafeteria, but he could see them. Fascinated, he watched as the girl would say something to Zim. Zim would reply... usually after a thinking pause or while waving his arms about to empathize his point. Then Gaz...

Then Gaz would smile. Or laugh. Or just reply seriously after her own thinking pause. And the process would start all over again. After a while it appeared that Zim got the hang of the conversation thing and started asking questions himself. Sometimes he would even laugh as well in response to something Gaz said.

They looked so genuinely happy... happy and content. After a while Dib completely abandoned his meal and watched out of eyes that were no longer clouded by suspicion. For the first time in her life... his sister... his sister was HAPPY.

"Well I'll be," He muttered.

He watched as Gaz suddenly picked up a spoonful of potatoes and thrust them towards Zim. He watched as the alien reacted fearfully and flailed about for a moment, then slipped and fell off his chair. Gaz looked slightly unimpressed as the alien disappeared for a moment, then broke down and chuckled as a hand dramatically reached up. It strained and then reached up grasped the table. Zim made a big display of struggling to get back on his chair, then sitting and casually adjusting his wig when he finally managed to do so. He said something, which apparently was so incredibly funny that Gaz had to put her head in her arms to laugh. After a while her head had been down to long and Zim got concerned. The alien leaned over and poked her in the shoulder. Gaz sat up straight suddenly and pretended to mad, scowling at Zim for poking her. She glanced over.

Their eyes met.

For a moment they stared at each other, then, flushing, Dib returned his attention to his plate. After a long embarrassed moment, he dared look up again.

Now his sister AND Zim were looking at him. They didn't look hostile at least; just curious... inquiring... maybe a tiny bit fearful in Zim's case... wondering why he was looking at them. Dib was mortified. He stared back down at his plate for a long moment. Then he sighed.

"May as well," He muttered dryly under his breath. Biting his lip, he finally decided. Picking up his tray he got up from the table and made the first step towards them.

The End