Authors notes: Well, none really (surprise, surprise.) Finished my exams so I'm a happy camper.

Disclaimer: Belongs to Jhonen Vasquez, Nick etc, not poor old me!


Thirteen months, two weeks, four days, ten hours, twenty-two minutes, five seconds...six seconds....

Dib sighed, leaning back from the microscope. He massaged the creek in his neck as he pushed his chair away from the counter top and began packing up his things. Once all his books were secured in his bag he switched off the instrument and left the laboratory.

"See ya, Dib." The lab technician looked up from her comic briefly.

"Mmmm." Dib barely acknowledged her presence. He exited the laboratory building and made his way to his locker on the university concourse. He quickly hung up his lab coat and replaced his dissection kit before exchanging his lab manual for hefty textbooks. Slinging his overly heavy bag over his shoulder Dib left the main university building and turned towards home. It was dark outside. A stiff wind blew clouds across the sky, illuminating the moon in an eerie fashion. But for his part Dib ignored it completely.

In the beginning he searched the skies endlessly. He had stood dumbfounded outside Zim's for over an hour before he raced home and scanned the stars for any sign of the Voot Cruiser. He had broken into his father's lab and used the classified satellite technology to peer deeper into space. Hours were spent scouring the Internet for any mention of a green skinned boy. Every night he had returned to the empty lot where Zim had resided. And every night he returned home more confused and empty than the previous.

Until one day he just stopped. He woke up and simply ripped down every picture of Zim and anything related to him. He took all his paranormal paraphernalia and burned them in the back yard. Then he went to his father and asked him for help. He wanted to study real science.

Dib just couldn't take it one more day. Every day he went to the vacant area Zim had once occupied a little piece of him died. He had just had enough. Enough of that stupid alien, enough of space and the paranormal. He had become so good at ignoring it all; it hardly even seemed a conscious decision anymore.

He winced as the strap from his bag dug into his shoulder. Goddamn zoology books! Two stone of paper for about three paragraphs of relevant information. Dib sighed; he could have easily just stayed in library to write his echinoderm essay but that held the possibility that one of his classmates might talk to him. It was a slight possibility, yes, but it was a possibility none the less. He cursed audibly as a light drizzle began to fall.

He glanced down the lane a few feet in front of him. It led directly to town and would probably cut his journey in half but it wasn't exactly the safest place on campus. He bounced on his heals momentarily before just giving up and walking swiftly into the almost claustrophobic alley. What low life would bother coming out in the rain anyway? If he just kept his head down and got the hell out of there as fast as possible he should be all right.

Beer cans clanked together as Dib inadvertently kicked them with his booted feet. He walked quickly, eyes darting around for any sign of movement. Dib never figured out why exactly he turned around. It was just a feeling, an urge, primal and demanding. He stopped dead in his tracks, standing motionless in the rain; his ears strained trying to listen for any sign of movement. Slowly he turned around knowing deep down inside he was sharing the alley with someone. A figure stood concealed by darkness. The moon shone over head illuminating the figure to a limited degree. Dib knew immediately something was wrong. The figure didn't look human. There was no specific difference really, just...a feeling. Slowly the figure stepped out of the darkness, revealing himself.

"Zim?" Dib stood motionless, staring disbelieving at Zim. His heart felt ready to burst. Why was he back? Where had he gone? Why had left him....? All those questions Dib had denied himself to ponder came rushing back. He wanted to rush up to the alien and pour his heart out to him, to elevate the vice that had gripped his chest ever since he had left but Dib knew immediately something was wrong.

Zim didn't speak. He didn't react at all. He merely stared at Dib and tried to control himself. He hated himself for what was about to happen, for what he was going to do to the human. Dib hadn't changed much, still gangly and thin but in an endearing way. Zim wanted to smile, to apologise with all his being for leaving so abruptly, but he couldn't. He could no longer take Dib's intense stare. The boy seemed so lost. He just stood there, allowing the rain to pour down his face and obscure his vision. Zim dropped his eyes to the filthy ground.

Dib knew something was wrong. He watched Zim stare back at him for what seemed like an eternity. The rainwater evaporated of his body casting him in an eerie glow and for a brief moment Dib wondered if he had truly gone insane. If, in his desire for Zim, he had simply imagined the figure before.

Zim looked up again, knowing what he had to do. He avoided Dib's gaze, even though it ripped his chest to threads to do so. He glanced to the back of the alley where three pairs of red eyes observed from the gloom. His breathing became rapid and shallow but he knew he had no choice. He nodded to the silent observers, sealing Dib's fate.

Dib saw Zim look past him. He saw Zim nod and he knew he had been betrayed. The familiar whirl of machinery alerted him to something's presence behind him. Dib whipped around to find three Irken's advancing on him. Each was supported by their spider legs. They seemed bigger than Zim and more menacing. Dib turned back to Zim, a forlorn look on his face. To his dismay three more Irken's were blocking off the entrance to the alley. They climbed down the walls, their mechanical legs clinking eerily. Dib knew he had lost, there was no way out, but he had to try. He made a break for the entrance, ignoring Zim as he rushed past him. One of the Irken's gripping the walls made a dive for him. Dib swung his heavy bag at her, mangling her spider legs. It was his only victory that night. Before he had gone another two paces a metal leg flew at him from no where. He was slammed against the wall. His glasses fell from his face and flew across the alley, coming to a stop a Zim's feet. Zim eyed them momentarily before bending down and picking them up, not once looking at Dib. Dib tried to get to his feet again but the Irken who had succeeded in hitting him used another leg to pin him to the wall. The cold, mechanical leg wrapped around his throat and lifted him clear of the ground. Dib clawed at the appendage slowly choking him breaking his nails and tearing his skin. He kicked vainly, trying to find the ground.

The Irken restraining him laughed, throwing his head back. He regained his composure slightly, smirking evilly at Dib. "Foolish human, you think you can escape one of the Irken elite?" He grabbed Dib by the hair, pulling his head forward, before smacking it off the wall.

Dib shook himself, regaining his composure. He tried to hit his capture but only managed to scrape his skin. The Irken laughed at him again before his skin began to smoke and blister. Screaming in pain he abruptly dropped Dib and clutched his face. Dib landed awkwardly on his ankle. He tried to push himself to his feet and attempt another escape but he was restrained once more. This time the spider legs wrapped around his waist, locking his arms to his sides. The grip was vice like but not painful. He looked up to see the blurry image of Zim staring down at him. He noticed movement in the corner of his eye but was not quick enough to catch it. A pinch like feeling caused him to wince. Immediately he felt his blood run cold and before he could form any thought on what was happening to him, he lost consciousness.


Dib woke in a strange position. He was lying on his stomach on what he assumed to be an operating table. The table was made so that there was a hole in it where his head was, much like a masseuse table. He tried to move, know full well it would be futile. He was restrained at every joint and along his torso, allowing him to shift slightly in position but that was the limit. He felt air move against his back and his heart sank when he realise he was naked.

"Hey, I think it's awake!" A face appeared before Dib. As he suspected, it was Irken. To Dib most Irken's looked the same, with a few differences. This one in particular had purple eyes. It eyed him with a somewhat vacant look, sucking on what looked suspiciously like a brain freeze.

"Oh, let me see." Another face appeared next to the other, this time with red eyes. "Oh, it sure is funny looking!"

"Yeah!" The purple eyed one laughed. "What the hell is that?" He poked Dib in the nose.

His red eyed friend laughed out loud. "And these?" He leaned forward and pulled on Dib's ears. "Eugh!"

"Get the hell away from me!" Dib tried to move away from them as best he could.

Red looked angry for a second before looking to Purple and breaking into peals of laughter. Abruptly they stood up, removing their faces from Dib's line of vision. "You know maybe this planet isn't so bad after all! The natives are pretty funny. Lets turn it into a zoo!"

"You think?" Purple sucked on his brain freeze, a look of intense concentration on his face.

Dib heard the swish of an electronic door opening. "You called, my Tallest?"

A rage like never before ran through him. "ZIM!" He began pulling on his restraints, hoping desperately to break free. "I'm going to kill you!"

"Oh, he's feisty!" Purple bent down to look at Dib once more, poking him in the nose again.

"Stop that." Red shoved him before turning his attentions to Zim. "Yeah, hurry up and get to work. We need to test this new technology quickly!"

"Yeah," Purple straightened, turning to Red. "I mean after the fall of Blorch, we're only left with two hundred and forty eight parking structure planets!"

"Yeah, Zim. So do that stuff you've been talking about, we'll doom this planet and it's off to destroy the Keil' tol. Yeay!"

"Mmm." Purple agreed. "It wasn't injured during capture was it?" He glanced down at Dib. "I mean look at it! It's disgusting."

"Only slightly, my Tallest. Invader Spleen caused minor damage to it's respiratory system but-"

"Invader Spleen!" Red shouted not waiting for Zim's reply.

"Yes, my Tallest." Dib recognised the voice as that of the Irken who had nearly strangled him.

"For nearly destroying the creature vital to Operation Stop the Non-Irken Doom, you are here by exiled to, eh, Planet Gort. Ba-bye." Red waved as Spleen was dragged from their sight.

"But that's an exploding head planet!" He screamed as the door shut behind him.

"You've had it in for him ever since he got shrunk on that high gravity planet." Purple pouted as he finished his brain freeze. "Come on, I'm bored and hungry. Let's get some nachos." He exited the room, followed closely by Red.

"Oh and Zim-" Red appeared at the door again. "Don't screw up again, ok?"

"Zim, I'm gonna-" Dib regained his bearings. He tried again to break free, fully intending to choke the life out of his once Irken friend.

"Sedate the human. This procedure will cause it intense pain. I don't wish to listen to it's pitiful screaming for the next few hours." Zim's voice sounded hate filled and evil. He sounded like the Zim who had first come to Earth.

"Yes, sir." Again Dib felt a pinch, this time on the back of his hand. He tried to resist the drug but before more than four seconds passed he was once more unconscious.


When Dib woke again the room was almost completely dark. He shifted in his bonds, trying to dispel the pins and needles where his circulation had been cut off. That, however, proved to be a bad idea. A wave of nausea over came him and Dib was forced to gag for sometime before regaining his composure. He felt feverious and clammy. His heart raced in his chest and no matter how deep his breath it always felt like air was only reaching his throat.

He tried desperately, fought it as long as he could but before long he was reduced to tears. What was happening to him? He had been abducted by the Irkens and they were performing tests on him. But worst of all it was Zim behind the entire scheme. So it had all been a trick then. Zim really felt nothing for him, he had just been using him. Dib felt his heart constrict as hopelessness over came him. He couldn't restrain the sob that broke free of his lips. Where had the deception begun? Had Zim hatched the plan the moment Dib fell sick? Or had he evolved it once he saw how easy Dib had been to manipulate...

Dib was so caught up in his grief he failed to notice the door open, or the cautious steps approaching him, he did however see the small green face that peered up at him.

"Dib, I-" Zim reached out to touch Dib's face.

"Get the hell away from me!" Dib hissed, wanting to spit at Zim.

"Listen to me please!" Zim sounded desperate. His eyes darted around the room. "We haven't much time."

"No, leave me alone!" Dib wrestled with a sob. "You bastard. You user! I can't believe I fell for it! I am such an idiot." Dib shook his head to the greatest extend he could manage. "So help me, I'll kill you Zim, if it's the last thing I do!"

A pained expression passed over Zim's face. "No, Dib you don't understand. I had no choice-"

"Shut up! Leave me alone." Dib blinked back tears. "I hate you."

Zim stared up at him before dropping his eyes to the floor. He was breathing rapidly. "Dib,-" This time he didn't look up as he spoke. His antenna bobbed close to Dib's face. He was sorely tempted to bite it but decided to hear Zim out. Perhaps the stupid alien would let something slip and he would be able to concoct a plan of escape. "I'm going to get you out of here. I can explain everything. I just need-" Zim had meant to say I just need you to trust me. He hadn't been thinking. He knew what he had done destroyed any chance of Dib ever trusting him again. He looked back up at Dib. "I'll get you out of here."

He disappeared from view. The next moment Dib felt the restraints being removed one at a time. As soon as he could he turned and wrapped his arms around his legs, hoping to hide his nakedness somewhat.

"Here." Zim handed him his clothes, all neatly folded.

Dib snatched them from him and began to dress. He pulled his T-shirt over his head, fighting a wave of nausea. He was about to jump of the table when he noticed Zim watching him. "Do you mind?" He glared at the alien.

Zim blushed and silently turned around. He wanted to help Dib, he could see how much he was struggling but he knew better. Once he no longer heard Dib shuffling around he turned back. Dib was clutching the table (fully dressed) panting and gasping for breath. "Are you all right?" Zim moved towards him.

"I would be if it wasn't for you." Dib retreated.

Zim frowned. He wanted to explain, to beg forgiveness but there wasn't time right then. "Here." He handed Dib what looked like a gas mask. "I'm going to release a toxic gas onto this deck. It will immobilise the crew temporarily before their ID PAK can adapt. We won't have much time. You must follow my instructions exactly." Zim finished fitting his gas mask.

Dib followed suit. "How do I know this isn't another trap?" He followed Zim to the door, unsteady on his feet.

Zim glanced back at him before exiting the room. "You don't."

Once assured the hall was free from others Zim opened a panel in the wall and began working. Dib could only assume he was doing what he said he would do before he heard a hissing. He looked up to a vent above his head. The air coming through it waved as if in a heat haze. Zim secured the panel once more. He glanced up at the vents then at Dib. "This way."

They had not far to go before they found a fallen Irken. He lay on his side, tongue hanging from his mouth. "Is he dead?" Dib asked as they passed him.

"Momentarily, yes." Zim did not even bother to look.

"What do you mean 'momentarily'? Dib tried to keep up with him but found his strength failing fast. The ankle injury he had sustained during the struggle in the alley was returning to haunt him.

"I don't have time to explain." Zim answered curtly. He glanced back at Dib. "Are you all right?" But Dib could not answer him. He rested against the wall for support. "Dib?" Zim moved closer to him but refrained from touching him.

"Can't...breath." Dib fell to the floor, gasping for breath.

Zim moved next to him. He went to put his arm around Dib's waist but Dib pushed him away, attempting to stand again. "Dib, we don't have time for this. The others will be waking up soon. If you want to get back to Earth then let me help you." Dib seemed to consider this for a moment before relaxing enough for Zim to hoist him to his feet. Zim wrapped one arm around Dib's waist and the other he used to take Dib's own arm, wrapping it around his shoulder. This was quite awkward for Dib, being substantially taller than Zim but he didn't complain.

They struggled into the space craft hanger. Zim dragged Dib over to his Voot Cruiser and laid him down next to it. He opened to hatch to be greeted by GIR.


"GIR, remember; be quiet. Ready the Voot, I need to get Dib inside."

"Okey doeky!" GIR retreated inside the Voot Cruiser and to his relief Zim heard the engines flare to life.

He turned to find Dib unconscious, leaning next to the ship. He felt his heart quicken. Instantly he was by Dib's side checking his breathing and pulse. Once satisfied that Dib was not in mortal danger he delicately picked him up and placed him in the ship.

"Hi DIB!" GIR launched himself at Dib, seemingly unaware that the human was unconscious.

"NO GIR!" Zim turned to him. "Leave Dib alone. He's, eh, asleep." Zim turned back to the controls. He brought up the modifications he had made to the ship during his long absence. In a shimmer of light the ship disappeared from sight. Zim smiled in delight. Thank the Tallest for Vortians! He engaged the engines, opened the cargo doors and prepared to enter Earth's atmosphere.


Gaz sat on the sofa, much as she did every day, playing her GS2. Her eye twitched in concentration as she neared the final level of her game. Suddenly the screen went blank. Gaz could only gape at the empty screen. could this be happening to her?! She had just replaced the batteries. The screen then began to flicker before filing with static. Slowly an image came into view. Zim stared up at her from the tiny screen.

"Gaz?" He looked frightened.

"You just made me lose all my data, Zim." Her voice was deathly low.

"That doesn't matter now." Zim swallowed at the look he received. "It's Dib, I need to get him some place safe. He's in great danger."

"Huh? Why? What kind of danger? And where have you been for the past year anyway?" Gaz looked perplexed.

"We don't have time for this. Do you know of some place I can hide him?" Zim banged his fist on the control panel.

"Where are you?"


"No tell me where you are. I want to see Dib. Is he ok? Where is he?" Gaz wanted to shake the game slave in frustration but decided against it. She didn't know how stable the connection was.

"Dib is unconscious at present. He's ill. We are about 150 kilometres from your present position." Zim glanced at the computer screen to confirm this.

"Pick me up." Gaz's voice once more became stony.

"What?" Zim gaped at her. "No, I don't have time. The Massive could be tracking us right now!"

"Pick me up or I won't tell you where you can take Dib."

Zim could do nothing but glare at her. He clenched his fists in anger.

"I know exactly where you can take him. It has a lab and everything, if he's sick again. But I won't tell you where it is unless you take me too." Gaz almost immediately felt the Earth begin to tremble. A gale force wind appeared to blow outside. "Get in." Zim ordered from the game slave before the screen once more went blank.

Gaz slowly walked over to the window and peered out. Zim was standing, in his natural state, on the lawn. He appeared to be leaning against something but for her part Gaz could see nothing. He noticed her watching him. He narrowed his eyes in anger while tapping his foot impatiently.

As fast as she could Gaz ran from the house and over to Zim. "Where's Dib?" She glared at him.

Zim sighed as he turned. He pressed what appeared to be thin air. Out of no where a ship materialised on the lawn. Inside lay Dib, still unconscious, while GIR sat behind him, playing with his hair. Gaz entered the ship and sat next to Dib, lifting his head onto her lap. She glanced up at Zim. "He's burning up."

Zim re-entered the Voot Cruiser. "I know. The device that controls his cancer was deactivated. He requires immediate medical attention."

"What device? What's going on?" Gaz braced herself as the ship began to take off, cloaking as it did so.

"There's no time to explain now. Tell me where to go and I'll help him." Zim looked sadly down at Dib's clammy, flushed face.

"It's our summer home, we used to go there every summer when mom-" Gaz stopped. "Here, I'll show you." She pointed to out an area on the map displayed on the control panel.

"Are you sure we won't be traced there?" Zim lay in the destination.

"Yeah. It is in mom's maiden name. We haven't used it for years."

Zim nodded and activated the autopilot.


Ok, that was a pretty short chapter but if I went on it would have been WAY too long. Anyway, hope it was worth the wait. I realise I'm a week behind on posting this chapter but my exams were considerably more stressful than anticipated! So happy they're finished! Yipee!!!!!

Oh yeah, I realise I posed more questions than answered them in this chapter (if I answered any questions at all that is!) but don't worry I will explain…!