WARNING: Do NOT read this fic if you are easily triggered by self harm! I repeat, DO NOT read this fic if self harm is a negative trigger for you! The self-inflicted cuts on Dib's arms were there BEFORE Zim walked into the bathroom. There is NO additional cutting. It's implied that Dib wants to, but doesn't get the chance. Again, please do not read this if you're uncomfortable with this topic!

A/N: This fic can be read on its own or as a continuation of sorts to my other fic, 'Wait... You Miss Me?' There are no references to it within this new fic, so you won't be lost if you don't read the other. It's just "easier" for me to say it's a continuation since they already have an established relationship.

Side note: Fauna Crossing = Animal Crossing (hur hur, I r clever)

Zim thought he knew what he'd signed up for when he chose to be Dib's mate two months ago. His instincts told him it was the right path for him, so he didn't resist, nor did he regret his decision to listen. Dib made him feel wanted, validated, important... and happy. These were things he was not used to feeling, aside from his own self-importance, which didn't last long due to being abandoned by his own kind. Dib made him feel important in a different way. It felt secure and strangely humbling.

A few nights ago, they'd gotten into their first big fight as a couple. The details were a little hazy to Zim, seeing as the majority of it was spent in a blind fury of random insults, accusations, and yelling. It all started when something happened in Fauna Crossing that Zim didn't agree to. Since they were playing on Dib's Switch, his character was the Resident Rep on their island. He called all the shots on decorating and building, never taking any of Zim's ideas into account. Zim vocalized his frustrations, to which Dib, for some reason, responded as if his boyfriend was accusing him of lying, or worse. He'd thrown the controller down, claiming Zim had offended his "pride" as a gamer. Zim had no idea what he'd said to piss the guy off so much, but he was never one to back down from a fight, so he argued back. Things just escalated from there.

After an hour or so of bickering and a couple of punches thrown in for good measure, Zim had stormed out of Dib's house and ran home in a fit of rage. He wrecked some of his base while his anger still boiled, mostly his lab, which did make him feel a little better, albeit temporarily.

No communication was made after their fight. A couple of times while Zim had their previous text conversation open on his phone, contemplating on burying the hatchet, he noticed Dib attempting to type something, but nothing ever came of it.

Not wanting to waste his time arguing through texts, he made his way over to Dib's house. It'd been five days since their fight, so being on Membrane property felt a bit odd. He knew better than to drop in unexpectedly, but he felt justified in doing it during times like this. Dib was as stubborn as he was, so Zim knew that talking about a serious topic through text messages would be pointless. Not only that, but Dib would probably vehemently tell him not to come over if Zim asked or demanded.

As he stepped closer to the house, a sudden feeling of dread fell over him, which made him stop dead in his tracks. He clenched his jaw and silently surveyed his surroundings for any danger. His natural instincts, coupled with extensive Irken military training, alerted him that something was very wrong. His antenna twitched, his eyes were razor focused, and his hearing abilities heightened. However, he didn't find any sign of a potential threat. The property was quiet... eerily so.

Then, as if on cue, Zim heard a sound break the silence. It was a sniffle... then crying. Zim's body sprung into action when he recognized who was causing those pained sounds. He quickly scaled the side of the house leading up to Dib's window, trying hard not to make too much noise with his PAK legs. Unfortunately for Zim, it seemed the young man had the forethought to lock his window shut, knowing that Zim would come by sooner or later. Zim frowned and cursed, hating that his lover felt the need to keep him at bay. Was he still pissed off?

He wasn't sure if Gaz or the professor was home, however he figured going through the front door was his only option besides breaking Dib's window. He scaled back down and placed himself in front of the front door. He took a deep breathe to calm his nerves, then knocked. When no one answered for a solid 20 seconds, he knocked again, this time more forcefully. Again, no answer. He whispered a curse... Window breaking it is...

Dib would give him hell for this, but if it meant quelling the unsettling feeling in his squeedily spooch, he could handle Dib's wrath over a broken window. He'd help replace it anyway. Climbing back up to said window, he used one of his PAK legs to smash through it, making sure to destroy the entire thing as a safety precaution for himself. After sliding inside, he noticed Dib was nowhere to be found. That feeling of dread suddenly got worse.

He began frantically calling his name while searching every nook and cranny of the room. Positive he'd done a clean sweep, he exited the room and took note of how dark and silent the house was. Irken have amazing night vision, so the darkness didn't bother him in that regard. What really unsettled him was how lifeless and empty it felt. Had it always been that way or was it due to the lack of bustling activity? Either way, Zim didn't have the luxury to ponder over it. He had an objective for coming here, after all.

He used the silence to his advantage by standing still in the hallway and listening intently for the cries he heard earlier. Not long after tuning in did he hear the feint sound of Dib's breath. He could tell his mate was trying to be as quiet as possible in order to not give away his location. It probably would have worked had his boyfriend not been an extraterrestrial with impeccable hearing. Noting the location, Zim swiftly made his way over.

Much to his dismay and irritation, the bathroom door was locked. The moment he tried to open it, he heard a feint gasp.

"Go away, Zim! No one asked you to come check on me!"

Dib's pained yell hit Zim in the gut pretty hard. He narrowed his eyes and banged hard on the door, "I came here to talk, you moron! We need to discuss the argument we had! Now open the damn door!"

"Fuck off!"

"Dib, if you don't open this door right now, I'm going to break it down! You KNOW I will!"

"You wouldn't dare!"

Zim groaned, "So be it." A PAK leg with a laser gun attached to it came out and shot the door handle clean off, then retracted back into the PAK. "Clearly you don't know me very well if yo-" Zim had begun his statement as he opened the door, but was forced into silent shock by what he saw when he entered.

There, sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, was Dib... blood dripping from thin cuts on his arms onto his pants and the tiled floor. The human refused to make eye contact, ashamed that his ugly secret was now on full display to the one person he didn't want seeing it.

Not caring in that immediate moment how Dib got those cuts, Zim panicked and went right into healing mode. He grabbed a nearby towel and knelt down to cover Dib's wounds with it, but was met with resistance.

"Don't fucking touch me! Just leave, Zim! I'll clean this up myself!" Dib was visibly shaking all over as he fought against the tears that threatened to reveal his shame. He just wanted to be alone to wallow in the self-hatred he'd grown accustomed to.

Zim's eyes narrowed, then he grabbed Dib by the hands and forced him to stand up. "Like Zim would ever leave you in this condition." He dragged him over to the sink, turned on the water, then forced both wounded arms under it. He cringed as the water splashed and burned his exposed skin, though thankfully his gloves protected most of the areas that were at risk.

Dib tried his best to pry himself away, but Zim had always been physically stronger. "For fuck's sake, Zim, quit it! I told you I'd clean it myself! It's not like this is the first time!"

Both men visibly tensed after that last statement was uttered. Dib's body shook even more as he held his breathe and finally looked over at the silent alien. Zim's antenna were stiff and rigid due to being on high alert. He seethed in anger as he clenched his jaw. He didn't know how to respond. Many different thoughts and emotions coursed through his body, all of which put him on edge. He knew he had to tread carefully, though, so he decided to suppress his rage for as long as possible, hoping he'd get answers if he acted calmer.

He turned off the water, grabbed a handful of tissues to place on the cuts, then took a deep breathe. He spoke in a very low, serious tone, "Zim assumed, or rather hoped, that these wounds were not your own doing. Now that Zim knows that such assumptions were only wishful thinking and that this self mutilation has been an ongoing occurrence..." he couldn't finish that thought. It was too painful. He took yet another deep breathe, trying to relax his already agitated nerves. "First tell Zim why you've been... harming yourself." He didn't make eye contact with Dib, too afraid of how he'd react if he did. He was hanging on by a thread as it was.

Dib wished for nothing more than for Zim to leave. He hated that he'd, not only been found out, but was also being interrogated about it. He'd done a good job keeping it from his family and peers. It was the reason he wore long sleeved shirts, jackets, and his trusty tench coat, even during warm/hot weather. He was good at making shit up when questioned. Lying was second nature to him at this point. But he couldn't lie to Zim, not when he'd been caught red-handed. Any lie he'd think up, he knew Zim would see right through it. He was backed into a corner and he hated that. He felt helpless and not in control of the situation.

"ANSWER ZIM!" The alien yelled at the top of his lungs, growing impatient with how long it was taking Dib to answer his inquiry. He despised being ignored. His gaze remained on the sink as he tightly clutched Dib's left arm within the tissues.

Dib was startled from his thoughts by Zim's outburst. He panicked and shook like a leaf as he struggled to respond, "I-I, uh... w-well... i-it all s-started in m-middle school..."

At this, Zim's face darted in Dib's direction, fear and guilt evident in his eyes.

Startled for a moment by Zim's sudden reaction, Dib sighed and assured, "Don't worry, it wasn't because of you. Or at least not directly."

Knowing that Zim was now more worried than angry, Dib was able to calm down a little more. He was more melancholy and ashamed than afraid as he continued, "My life has always sucked, as you kinda know. Being tossed aside, bullied, ridiculed, and... made to feel like a disappointment... constantly..." He could no longer hold back his tears. Out of everything he'd ever gone through thus far, the worst, by far, was the disapproval of his father. "No matter what I did... no matter how hard I tried... I was never good enough in his eyes. The only time he was ever fucking proud of me was during that brief moment in my life when I actually considered studying 'real science' in order to impress him and... m-make him love me..." He began to sob as the emotional pain hit him like a comet. He slumped down onto the ground, no longer able to support his own weight under the intense grief he'd been shouldering for years.

Although Dib had never said it outright, Zim could piece together that the human was talking about his father. He'd always known about the tense, resentful relationship Dib had with the professor. He knelt down with his distraught boyfriend, antenna laying flat against his head in concern. The anger he once felt had been completely replaced by worry and sympathy. He reached up and grabbed the tissue box from the sink and placed it on the floor between himself and Dib. He threw away the blood soaked tissues and replaced them with new ones. He then leaned over and gently licked Dib's cheek, followed by an affectionate nuzzle on his lover's shaky shoulder.

"Zim understands in a way. The Dib knows how Zim was sent here to die simply because the Tallest hate him." He grit his teeth, trying to not revert back to how utterly crushed he felt that fateful day when his entire life turned upside down. "Zim always did his best to please his Tallest. Everything Zim did was for them and the good of the armada. However, Zim now recognizes that Zim did... not so good things back on Irk. I killed two of our last Tallests, so that might be why Zim was so hated."

Dib suddenly stopped sobbing and furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, "You what...?"

Zim lifted his head and blushed a bit from embarrassment, "Oh, did Zim not tell you? Hehe... yeah, Zim accidentally killed Tallest Spork and Miyuki. Zim felt bad, but I was way more prideful back then. With no solid proof I did it, I got away with it with no repercussions, thankfully."

"Huh..." Dib was too dumbfounded to ask about the details in his current state of mind, so he mentally filed his questions away for later. He grabbed a tissue to wipe away the tear stains and blow his nose. "Gotta say, I'm a little impressed. Never thought you were actually capable of killing someone, let alone your own people."

Zim took offense to that, so he scowled at Dib. "Hey! I'm a ruthless Irken trained soldier! Every creature in the galaxy should fear the almighty ZIM! Just the other day, I killed one of those stupid earth bugs that had been flying around my base for weeks! I showed it no mercy!"

Dib couldn't help but burst into laughter at how adorably prideful Zim was over killing a stupid bug.

Zim growled and grabbed Dib by the shirt, forcefully pulling him forward to meet him face to face. "Why are you laughing at Zim's victory over the pathetic earth insect?!"

Dib wiped away the tears that fell during his laughing fit, "Sorry, sorry. Couldn't help myself. You're so damn proud about killing a helpless bug. It's hilarious and adorable." He took a deep breathe, then kissed his boyfriend's heated cheek. "That's one of the reasons why I love you, space boy."

Zim blushed and felt his squeedily spooch flutter before letting go of Dib's shirt, sitting back with his arms crossed. "Zim doesn't like being mocked... but if what Zim is doing is making Dib-mate happy..." he whined a little as his blush spread and he avoided eye contact, "… Zim guesses he can get used to it... maybe..."

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the tissues laying limply on Dib's arm. He didn't even realize he'd abandoned his "duty" in favor of grabbing the young man's shirt. His antenna perked up a bit as he was about to reach over to resume tending to the wounds, but was quickly halted by a pair of arms engulfing him in a tight embrace. He was still concerned about the cuts, but he felt that could wait a bit, since it seemed Dib needed the embrace a bit more at that moment. He crossed his legs, then pulled Dib onto his lap, gently holding him in a comforting way.

Dib began to cry once more as he spoke, "Zim... I don't know why you're still here, giving a shit about me. I don't know why you didn't bolt the moment you saw my biggest secret. I don't know why you give a fuck about a loser like me... But for what it's worth, thank you. Thank you for helping me tonight and being the only person in my life who cared enough to get angry at me when it was truly warranted. Just... thank you, Zim. I love you so much..." He held onto Zim as if he were his life line, which at that moment, he felt he was. He vaguely wondered how far he would have gone if Zim hadn't broken into his house and tended to him.

It was at that moment that Zim felt true empathy for the first time. All of Dib's self-hate mixed with feelings of love and appreciation for the alien holding him... Zim felt it. He felt so much pain in his squeedily spooch, it was suffocating. If this was what Dib felt on a daily basis for 8 years... no wonder he felt so desperate for a release. Zim allowed himself to cry. He grieved for Dib's pain and suffering, vowing to stop it all... somehow. He hated seeing his human in so much emotional agony. He held him just as tightly as Dib was, clawed fingers grasping at Dib's shirt.

Upon noticing that Zim was also crying, Dib pried himself out of the embrace in order to look at his boyfriend's face. He felt an extremely painful pang in his chest as he looked upon Zim's sad expression and tear stained cheeks. That all too familiar self-loathing erupted once more, enveloping him far more than it had the majority of the day. His eyes shifted to his left, looking over at the original spot Zim had found him. On the floor, surrounded by drops of blood, was the razor he favored whenever he wanted to self harm.

"I'm sorry for making you cry, Zim. I'm the worst..." he mutely stated as he slowly reached for his coveted razor, fingers twitching from anxiety.

Zim's line of sight shifted quickly a couple of times from Dib's eyes to the razor and back again before grabbing Dib's face, forcing him to look at him in the eyes. "Dib, look at me! You're not the worst. You need to-... Dib, stop!" He grabbed Dib's left hand, forcing it onto his lap. "Reach for it again and I'll-... Seriously, human?!"After seeing Dib's body shift once again in an attempt to retrieve the razor, Zim had had enough. With a PAK leg, he picked up the blood stained source of Dib's attention and threw it in the garbage.

Dib looked horrified at the loss of his escape tool. He tried getting off of Zim's lap to retrieve it, but, not only did the alien have a strong hold on his shoulders, a few PAK legs came out to hold him in place, as well.

He glared at Zim, "Let. Me. Go."

Zim glared back and spoke sternly, "You don't need that shit anymore, Dib. You never did."

"Zim, I'm warning you-"

"So am I. If you retrieve that sharp thingie from the trash, the pain won't end. It'll get worse. Trust Zim. I've harmed myself, too." He noticed Dib's features soften a bit when he said that last bit. "When the Tallest told me I was useless... that I had originally been sent on a fake mission in order to get rid of me... I went to a dark place in my head. Took me a solid month or two to slowly bring myself out. I won't go into detail about the things Zim did during that time. I'll only say that I also have scars that will never fully heal. They remind me of what I'm capable of if left unchecked. Dib..." he gently placed his hands back on Dib's cheeks and calmed his voice, "… my Dib-love... you're not alone anymore. Zim is here. Zim wishes he'd known about all this sooner. Zim would have helped his mate feel better much quicker. Zim is sorry it took so long for him to notice." He smiled apologetically as he wiped away the newly falling tears on his lover's face.

Forgetting all the anger and anxiety he held before, Dib's eyes searched frantically for any signs of scarring on Zim's exposed skin. He spotted one just below the jawline. It was a long, somewhat thin line about a couple of inches in length. Dib guessed it had been caused by a PAK leg, but he didn't want to ask for clarification. It didn't really matter anyway. He raised a shaky hand and lightly touched it with his finger tips. He now understood how Zim felt seeing him on the floor, bleeding and emotionally broken. Now that he'd seen and heard that Zim had gone through a similar hell and successfully made it through, Dib felt a tiny twinge of hope that he could, too. He also felt the overwhelming urge to ensure Zim would never have to face any hardships alone ever again, and he knew that he'd have to live on in order to make that a reality. Suddenly... the urge to cut wasn't overwhelming anymore.

Zim gently grabbed the hand that was observing his past mistakes and brought it up to his cheek, purring momentarily into it. "Do not worry about Zim. Zim is fine now. Our focus is on you right now."

With his mind finally beginning to clear, Dib had a sudden realization hit him the moment Zim uttered that last sentence. Tears began falling once more as he took note of how uncharacteristically selfless Zim had been acting during the whole fiasco. The alien's focus had been entirely on Dib's well being and safety. Hell, he even braved water for him. In all the years he'd known him, Zim had devoted more time and energy on himself than anyone else – though Dib came in a close second. For Zim to suddenly care so much for another living creature... Dib felt incredibly loved and special, for the first time in his life.

While bringing his other hand up to cup Zim's opposite cheek, he leaned in for a gentle, yet passionate kiss. He heard his alien gasp, then chirp as he reciprocated. Zim felt like gelatin and his whole body tingled. He let out a small moan as he submitted himself to his human mate. Dib had never kissed him like that before. It felt different somehow.

They panted as they separated, both clearly wanting more, but knew it could wait. They had much to say, after all.

"That felt... different, Dib-thing. Why? Zim feels way~ more attracted to you right now than before. Zim likes it, but I'm also confused." He licked his lips and stared for a moment at Dib's, wanting more of that new feeling to surge back into him. But he resisted and allowed Dib to talk. He'd devour that mouth later.

Dib blushed a deep shade of crimson and smiled as he stared into Zim's eyes. "Y-You are? Wow... I'm at a, uh, loss for words. It felt different to me, too. Maybe it's because I've fallen for you even more. You've proven how much you care about me. You put me in my place and didn't back down, even when I tried to push you away. You even related to me and gave me hope. You're amazing, Zim. I love you so damn much!"

He gave Zim a quick peck on the lips before continuing, "Listen... I... I can't promise that I won't have moments of weakness like tonight. This behavior is heavily embedded in my psyche. It'll take a long time for it to stop completely, or even show massive progress. I do promise, however, that I will work on it. Seeing your old scar made me realize that I want to be there for you when times are difficult. I wanna earn your trust, so that if you ever find your mind heading to a dark place again, you know you can come to me for help. I wanna have the opportunity to stop you from hurting yourself, just like you've done for me. I know you feel guilty about not seeing my own red flags – you really shouldn't, I hid them well – but I also feel bad for not being there for you when you needed it most. I will from now on, though. I swear on my life."

Zim took a deep breathe and exhaled a happy little chirp. He grabbed Dib's hands and held them on his lap. "Zim is... still not used to all of this love, affection, and relationship stuff. I'm starting to understand it the more I'm with you, though. Zim hates that we were never taught about this topic on Irk. Zim is trying to be a good mate. Admittedly, moments like tonight definitely test my resolve and patience. But it also shows how much you mean to me. Zim will try to help the Dib to not hurt yourself. If I catch you doing it again, there will be Sporgan to pay."

Dib smirked and raised a curious eyebrow, "Sporgan?"

"Yes, Sporgan. FEAR IT!"

Dib chuckled, "I would if I knew what it was."

Zim's antenna perked up, "Oh, right, you humans don't know of that planet. It's a well known planet in the Xerxzel galaxy. All the worst criminals and scum of the universe are sent there."

Dib nodded, "Oh, I think I get it. We kinda have that here. It's called prison."

Zim scoffed, "Ah, yes, Zim has read about your human prisons. They are not as effective as Sporgan. On that planet, you get tortured every hour in various ways for the rest of your life."

Dib blinked, "Okay~... Well we're definitely steering clear of that topic for eternity."

They both had a good laugh before leaning against each other's foreheads, relishing in the new comfortable peace they'd gained over the course of the evening.

Dib sighed contentedly, "Thanks again, Zim. I don't know what I'd do with or without you. You're a pain in the ass, but I love you with everything I am. What have you done to me, you space cockroach?" He smiled and kissed his boyfriend's forehead.

Zim purred and nuzzled against Dib's face, "Zim has clearly stolen the Dib's heart as part of my latest diabolical scheme to destroy you. This is only phase one. Phase two involves you moving in with Zim."

Dib felt his heart flutter, "You know, it's not a good idea to reveal your evil plans to your enemy. I might just take advantage of that knowledge and use it against you." He eyeballed Zim's lips.

Zim smirked mischievously, "Zim is looking forward to it." He leaned in and kissed his mate with all the passion he could muster, keeping to his word about devouring Dib's mouth.

A/N:I hope you all enjoyed that psychologically damaging roller coaster. XD; I pulled a lot from my own life as inspiration for this fic. I used to self-harm. In fact, the last time I did it was last year. Hopefully it never happens again. Sometimes I get that way if I have a rare massive mental breakdown. I still suffer from depression and anxiety. Childhood trauma will fuck anyone up. But there's always hope and that's what I wanted to reflect in this fic.

No matter how bad things get, you can heal from it. Every moment is a new beginning. You have total power over how each new beginning will proceed. The past can't harm you any longer unless you allow it. You are loved. You are important. You are valid. You are amazing. If anyone needs a safe space to talk, my PMs are always open. 3 I love helping people.