It is 2:17 p.m. A normal school day as per usual. Or at least… itwouldnormalbe if the Dib wasn't acting so strange lately. Seriously, for the past few days Dib hasn't said a word to the invader. He hasn't evenlookedat the invader. He just goes about his day trying his best to ignore Zim the best he can.

Knowing Dib for as long as he did now, this was beyond odd behavior. Dib always wanted to call him out, he always wanted to fight him and be the self proclaimed "savior of Earth" that he said he was. But now? That determination has faded into fear.

A fear for Zim was all the alien could come up with. Butwhy?Why would Dib suddenly become so hesitant to be near Zim? They've had their rivalry for years now. Theirgame.What could have changed?

Zim eyes Dib from his seat on the other side of the sea of desks and students. The boy just idly sits at his own desk, watching Miss Bitters' lecture with a bored expression. Not even batting an eye at the alien. Zim grumbles under his breath.

"What was that Zim?" Miss Bitters asks, hunching over him like a vulture about the rip apart it's next meal.

Zim doesn't divert his gaze from Dib. The teen seems to shrink at the mention of Zim's name, and turns his head to face the window. Zim narrows his eyes, "Nothing Miss Bitters."

Miss Bitters cocks an eyebrow, and then hisses turning to go back to her rant on human existence and how pointless it all was.

The alien chooses to keep observing Dib. He watches him doodle on his paper, he watches him try to hide his coughs, and he watches him cringe at the lesson that was currently taking place. Soon enough Dib turned to read the clock on the wall, while accidentally meeting Zim's eyes.

The act was only for a few quick seconds, but Zim could almost feel Dib's breath hitch in his throat. His eyes went wide before turning his head back around to look at his desk below him. A few minutes pass and Dib looks like he's about to pass out. Dib raises his hand in a silent panic.

"Yes Dib? What do you want?" Miss Bitters asks tiredly.

"Can I use the restroom?" Dib asks, cupping his hand over his mouth as he speaks.

Miss Bitters considers her options for a moment before sighing, "Alright." She then hands Dib a hall pass and Dib goes sprinting down the corridor. Nobody even bothers to ask why he's covering his mouth.Whyyy?Because he's the crazy kid.

A few minutes pass and Zim feels like a bottle rocket about to pop. He springs up from his seat screeching and waving his hand, "MISS BITTERSSSSSS-"

"YES, Zim. Just… GO." She says waving her hand all while giving him the death stare.

Zim smirks, hopping down from where he was standing on his seat and triumphantly strutting their way out the classroom door. He runs down the hallway, coming to a stop when he finds himself outside of the restrooms. He hesitates for a moment before pushing open the door.

The bathroom is dark and vacant. The walls are covered in grime and dirt and the room reeks of mildew. The school really should do a better job at cleaning this place. But in all honesty, Zim along with the entire rest of the student body knew that would never happen.

The room is silent and empty, apart from the horrid retches and coughs coming from the stall furthest from the front.Bleh…Zim didn't even know humans couldmakethose sounds. It sounded gross and greatly disturbing. Honestly, if Zim thought Dib was acting strange before then this definitely takes the cake.

The Irken struts down to the last stall, his boots making silent clacks down the tiled floor. He's tempted to burst into the stall all at once to catch Dib in the act and inquire about everything that's been happening lately while he's cornered and trapped, but… something holds him back. Maybe it's the never ending stream of pained coughs coming from the boy that seem to raking the boy's windpipe every few seconds, or how Dib seems to be at a loss for air, panting and heaving heavily.

Eventually, it all gradually gets quiet.Thankfully,because Zim's patience was almost up. There's a flush from the toilet and after a moment, a tired looking Dib comes wandering out of the stall. He doesn't seem to notice Zim at first, so the alien takes that to his advantage and stands in the boy's path, blocking the way to the exit.

When Dib processes the situation and the green figure in front of him, his eyes go wide. He backs up further into his previous stall and diverts his vision from the invader. Pretending he's not there again... Nowthatpisses Zim off.

Zim's the first one to speak, "Dib-thing! Helloooo? You've been ignoring your future overlord. Have you finally given up protecting this stupid rock? Or have you forgotten that I can single handedly wipe out this planet in one swipe?!"

Dib looks sick. He's sweating more now, and according to Zim's antenna his heart rate has gone up at an exponential rate.

"Zim, I'm not in the mood." The boy states. His voice… it's scratchy and hoarse, and sounds as if it must hurt with every word, but still Dib still says it with strength. Of course, Zim expected nothing less from his nemesis.

Dib keeps his eyes on the dirt-ridden tiles below his feet. He won't evenlookat Zim… The alien frowns, "If you're not in the mood than you can at least tell me what you were doing inthere.The sounds were horrible."

At that Dib's eyes go wide once again, he looks Zim in the eye for a millisecond before being sent into a coughing fit, keeping his hand to his mouth, "Youheardthat?"

Zim nods and crosses his arms, "Unfortunately. It was truly and utterly revolting. Do humans usually make these sounds?"

Dib shakes his head in a silent panic, trying to push past Zim, "I have to go."

The human makes it past him with little effort. Mainly because Zim was honestly too scaredandconcernedby the new odd behavior to willinglywantto put Dib through anything stressful at the moment and get him worked up.

The alien watches the boy make his way out into the hallway as the bell goes blaring off in the distance. Zim sighs and then looks to his left at the stall Dib had been in.

There's nothing out of the ordinary. It just looked like a normal bathroom to the invader. Though… looking closer… Zim squats down to the floor and pulls out two items that were partially hidden from behind the toilet.

They both looked to be Earth flora petals. One a great shade of red, the other a beautiful shade of pink. Zim squinted at them, turning the petals over until he found something. He did, and his frown deepened.

On the tip of both petals, there was blood. Human blood, and fresh too. The alien scowled in confusion. He would try to ask the Dib about it again later today. In the meantime, he pocketed the petals and made his way to his next class.

The rest of the day went along as usual. Classes slowly went along, Teachers droning on with their pointless lectures. Unfortunately for Zim he had no other classes with the Dib-stink until after lunch, so he would have to survive the boredom that came with PE and history on his own.

Unsurprisingly, Zim couldn't stop thinking about Dib throughout his classes. Could he possibly be hurt? Those petalsdidhave blood on them… but that couldn't be from Dib, could it? There were no flowers around at the time, and Dib wasn't carrying any on him. But… then how could the blood be fresh? And on the same note… why was Dib making those strangled sounds from inside the bathroom stall? And why did he look so sick and tired? Whatever was happening, Zim didn't like it.

The bell sounds from the speakers above and snaps Zim out of his thoughts. He picks up his things and follows the wave of teenagers out the door.

He soon arrives at the lunch room after returning his things to his locker. This was his chance to -hopefully-talk with Dib again. He takes a quick glance around the cafeteria before spotting Dib and Gaz sitting at their usual table off to the side. Nothing was off there. Dib was ranting about something (most likely another paranormal phenomenon he was close to debunking) while Gaz nonchalantly pressed away at her game slave.

Zim frowned. Something about seeing Dib act like himself when he was away from him didn't sit right. Though the human was still bearing a cough here and there between sentences, so maybe thiswasjust a stupid human disease making him act funny.

The alien huffed, strutting over to Dib's table. The kid seemed to have his babble slowly come to a halt as he saw the Irken walking his way. Dib seemed to sigh, rubbing the bridge of his nose in an annoyed manner.

When Zim arrived at the table he slammed his gloves hands down, creating a loud bang. Several students turned to see the commotion, before realising the culprits and giving them the usual stink-eye.

"Dib-stink! Ineedto talk with you before your ugly face tries to flee from me again!" Zim hears a low grumble coming from Dib's scary sister. She already knows what happens when Zim appears at their table. An annoying and loud dispute of insults that's most likely to be followed up by a fist fight.

Dib stands from his place on the table bench, "Jesus Christ Zim, can't you just leave me alone for a couple of days?!"

"I should, shouldn't I? After all, you won't be there to stop my plans and that could really save me a lot of time…" He puts a hand on his chin.

Dib's eye twitches at having given the little green psychopath a new idea. "Don't you dare even think about it, alien-scum."

Zim smirks, leaning in closer, "Or what? What willyoudo,human?I could do whatever I wanted with your stupid planet and you would be so,soblissfully unaware."

This was Dib's part. This was his time to come back with another witty comeback. But now? He just looked drained. The boy shakes his head, turning from the invader and walking towards the exit. "I'm leaving."

Zim's quick to act, and slides across the table. He then grips one of Dib's trench coat sleeves in a deadly grip. "Dib!You can't just walk out, this is yourplanetwe're talking about! I'm going to conquer it, and you'll be a helpless slave along with all the otherhumanson this planet to serve the armada."

Dib coughs a bit into his hand, and tugs on the sleeve still currently being held in place by the alien. "Shutup, Zim," Dib says through gritted teeth. They were starting to attract an audience quickly, but Zim could care less.Let them watch, who cares.

"FINE. You don't want to talk aboutthat?Let's talk aboutthese."Zim takes out the previous two petals he had found on the bathroom floor and waves them in the human's face. The blood was now hard and crusted.

Dib's eyes widen, "Zim, shutup-"

"No way,human,you've been acting weird for weeks and I want to know why! You've been avoiding Zim andnowyou don't even want to protect your stupid smelly planet?! Is this some kind of-" suddenly Zim felt a jolt.

Dib had taken his hand away from his mouth and punched Zim right in the jaw with all the force he could muster. Zim's reflexes made him back up a few inches away from the threat, until he tripped on something and fell to the ground.Dib and Zim haven't thrown punches that hard since the 6th grade.

Zim held the sore part of his jaw, turning to look up at Dib who looked just as shocked as he did. A few students snickered from around them, whispering insults and rumors. When Dib's brain caught up to what just happened he hastily backed up and turned for the exit once again.

Zim rubbed his jaw and looked to the ground finding several other petals speckled with blood now laying discarded on the ground. The alien had no time to investigate, because he heard a voice from behind him.

"Man, you really pissed my brother off this time." It was Gaz. She still didn't look up from her game slave, "that punch looked like it hurt."

Zim stood from the ground and dusted himself off, going back to the table Dib had previously resided in. "I'll have you know that Zim has done nothing to trigger that response. I merely wanted to ask the Dib some things."

Gaz hummed in reply.

"... So what is it?"

"What is what?"

"What is wrong with the Dib-thing?!"

Gaz sighs a long and agitated sigh. She takes a game cartridge out of her console and switches it with another from her pocket, she opens one eye to glance at Zim. "I have a guess."

Zim nods impatiently, "Yes?!"

"I never said I was going totellyou my guess, dip-shit. But… if I'm right I think my stupid brother should tell you himself."

"Tell me what himself? What is he hiding?!" Zim screeches trying to weasel information out of the girl. Though, of course, Gaz doesn't budge.

"ComeonZim, isn't it obvious?! I mean, look at the flowers." She rolls her eyes and quickly gestures to the petals now residing on the floor.

Zim narrows his eyes and shakes his head slowly back and forth, "I…"

Gaz lets out a tired sigh, "You know what?! Whatever. I don't even care anymore. But if I were you, I would try to talk to Dib again."

"Why?" Zim inquiries.

Gaz just continues to type on her game slave, ignoring the alien. Zim huffs, and stands from his seat on the bench walking over to his usual empty table on the other side of the cafeteria.

It was now 5:21 p.m. Zim stands on the sidewalk staring at the Membrane residents. He contemplates with himself whether he should go in or not.

Dib was his enemy, and if he was hurt or injured in some way that was entirely his problem to deal with alone. But… despite that something was still pushing Zim to find the human. The thought of Dib coughing and choking on his own blood made his spooch turn, and the memories of those horrible retches in the bathroom came back.

The alien gave into his instinct and scaled the wall of the house up to Dib's room window. He pushes it open with ease and hops through the opening, landing right by the foot of Dib's bed. He clears his throat, ready to announce his presence. "DIB!!!"

Zim spots the human in question hunched over at his desk. Dib flinches at the sudden words and stands, pointing an accusing finger at Zim. "ZIM?! When did you get here???"

Zim shrugged, "I just got here. BUT THAT'S BESIDES THE POINT! I want to know what you've been hiding from the great ZIM!"

Dib dragged a hand down his face, "You really can't leave me alone for, like, a day?!"

"Of course not! Something's going on, human, and I want to know what!" Zim says, crossing his arms and glaring at Dib.

"Wh- yeah, but now??? Why can't you just leave me alone?!"

"Your scary sister said it was best if I were to inquire sooner. I want to know what she knows! What is it, huh? HUH?"

"Gaz…"Dib said through gritted teeth in a tone that said,'she issodead.' He looks back up to the Irken with a hesitant expression. "Do you really want to know?"

The Irken pauses, seeing Dib's shift in demeanor and nods.

Dib sighs and grabs some sort of bucket from off of his desk, and quickly moves to his bed, sitting on the edge. Zim follows, and sits beside him. From under his wig his antennas now pick up on the strong scent of human blood coming from the bucket and he cringes. Dib seems to catch his expression and looks at his feet in embarrassment, "Sorry."

Zim tries to hide his disgust, "It's fine. Now TELL me what is going on!"

Dib looks away from the invader, "It's this stupid hanahaki."

"Hannah-Hawk-ee…?" Zim tried to parrot in confusion.

"It's pronouncedhanahaki,but yeah, it's this stupid disease. I don't even know how I got it."

Zim sees the shame radiating off of Dib's face, which is weird because he doesn't really see anything to be ashamed of. If this is some human illness then it will just pass with time.

Zim tilts his head at Dib, "And what, pray tell, does this human disease do?"

Dib seems to meet his eyes for only a millisecond before coughing into the bucket. Zim just watches in silent dismay. Fortunately, Dib only lets out a few pained coughs this time before catching his breath. There is a bit of blood trickling down the humans chin, and Zim cringes when Dib wipes it away with his thumb. It almost looks as though Dib was used to this lifestyle by now.

Dib grabbed a cup of water from his nightstand and started chugging it before finally finding his voice. "Well for starters,that.It makes people cough up petals. Sometimes even full flowers."

Zim nods, urging Dib to continue.

"It kinda starts out as this little seed, like a plant, but then as the days go on the stem just gets bigger and bigger. It starts stretching and branching off into the stomach, then the lungs, then finally, the heart." Dib says with a grim tone. "Most people don't have their heart pierced, though. They usually die from the blood pooling in their stomach and lungs first."

Zim sits there with a stoic expression, not fully grasping the information just yet. So this human disease cankillthe participant? Which ultimately means thathishuman was going to die?Zim continued to sit on the bed staring off into nothing with his poker face.

"There are two cures at the moment, though." Zim snaps out of his trance and looks back to Dib who was still staring at his feet not willing to make eye contact with the alien. YES! OF COURSE, A CURE! Whatever the it may be Zim could get the resources, Zim could get the materials, Zim could- "But I don't like the sound of either of them."

Zim squints an eye at the human, and Dib kicks his feet out. "Well the first way, and most common, is basically why the hanahaki sprouted in the first place. Unrequited love."

"BLEH- That horrible stupid human term for your primitive mate-relations." Zim gags, "Good thing Irkens do nothing of the sort." The human seems to deflate at that, and Zim almost regrets his words.

Dib goes on with shame and embarrassment present in his voice, "Basically, I would have to admit that I… like…someoneto their face. If they return the feelings I'm safe." He bites on his tongue. "But that's stupid and I don't even like them anyway. This disease is confused," Dib says under his breath.

"And the other way?"

"Oh, well, my dad can get me a surgery to remove the vines."

Zim sprung up, standing on the bed. He holds Dib's collar in his hands, "WHY WOULDN'T YOU DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?!?!"

Dib pushes Zim away from him and scowls, "You don't get IT!!! If I get rid of those stems then those feelings will go away too…"

The invader stares at the human, "So, what? Didn't you say you didn't like these feelings and they were stupid anyway???"

Dib seems to shrink even more, and turns his head to face his wall. "Iknow…But it's just, I think of them all the time. And they just make me so happy, like, the happiest I've ever been in awhile…"

Zim frowns at the thought of Dib thinking of some stupid Earth female all the time while heshouldbe thinking about Zim. Whatever, Zim would break their neck once Dib was cured. "Dib-"

A nervous chuckle from the boy cuts him off. "I know, it's stupid. It's all stupid. I mean, look what I'm doing to myself," he gestures to the bucket on his lap. "It hurts but… I don't mind it."

Zim frowns, "Dib, you're going to die." He looks the boy up and down, "How long has this been going on for?"

Dib suppresses another cough, "I dunno, maybe about two months? A month and a half?"

Zim couldn't believe what he was hearing. Dib was dying. He has a cure at hand, but doesn't want to go through with it. All because of this stupid'lurve.'What waswithhumans and their stupid lurve?!

The two sit in an uncomfortable silence before Zim scoots closer to the human, "Sooooooo, who's the Earth female?"

Dib's cheeks go red with embarrassment at that, "What?"

"If you are going to be cured of this the you have to go through with the'sharing of feelings.'" He says matter-of-factly.

Dib shakes his head, "I couldn't, Zim, I could never… It would ruin everything."

Zim waves a hand at him, "Nonsense! Now tell Zim!"

"Well, for starters, it's not a girl…" Dib says ashamed.

"That's fine, I've heard of human-males getting together before-"

"No, it's not that… It's just-" Dib cuts himself off with a sigh. He turns towards Zim, now sitting criss cross. "Zim, what are we…?"

Zim hesitated for a moment, unsure of where this conversation was going. Sure, he and Dib have had moments in the past where they haven't tried to kill each other and just talked or watched tv, but now the conversation just seemed so much more dire. "...We're enemies?"

Dib deflates, his voice cracking at the ends, "I know."

"Dib?" Zim says.

"...Yes?"

"Is it Zim…?"

Dib's face turns a bright pink, "uh, no. Well yes…" the boy looks up to see Zim's eyes wide in shock. Dib immediately shook his head and waved his hands out, "Nononono!!! It's fine! I can- I can get the surgery! Everything can go back to normal, I-I promise…" He pleads.

Dib then grabs his pillow from beside him and shoves his face into it almost as if if he didn't see him then the alien wouldn't see him. "I just- I want things to go back to normal. I thought- I thought if I ignored you the feeling would go away, but Itdidn't.I'm sorry, I really am. I'm so stupid-"Dib says with his voice muffled by the pillow.

Zim is still frozen in shock from the sudden revelation. His antenna flicks under his wig. He snaps himself out of it, "What feeling?"

Wipe readjusts his glasses and looks to Zim, "This weird feeling. It's like there's butterflies in my stomach and my heart rate starts to pick up. Annoying as hell, but it's… kind of cool?"

"Wh- WAIT YOU HAVE FLIES IN YOUR STOMACH, TOO?!?!"

"METAPHORICAL, YOU STUPID BUG."

Zim ignores Dib's rebuttal and strokes his chin. "Wait… Zim has felt this fly-feeling before."

Dib looks up attentive, "you have?"

"Yes! Sometimes I actually feel it around you sometimes, but I just assumed you poisoned me or something."

"Oh."

"Yes, oh is right. This is a very big problem." Zim tapped his chin, "If we return this feeling, that would mean some type of AFFECTION. Any once of that is forbidden to the Irken empire."

Dib sat up, straightening his back out. "Wait… so do we have the same feelings?"

"Unfortunately," Zim hisses, "If the empire ever found I had these FEELINGS I would be terminated for good…" Zim hastily gets off of the bed and makes his way back to the window opening.

He's stopped when Dib grabs his hand. "But you won't be terminated if they never find out…?"

The alien stares at the boys hand, feeling the smooth skin even through his gloves. He hadn't even noticed that Dib had stopped coughing. Zim meets Dib's eyes and smiles a genuine smile. "I guess I won't."