Children of the Stars

[CotS][PG][Complete][One-Shot]Zim ponders on the relationship between himself and the Dib-human, and how it evolved and changed over his years on earth.

One of my earliest IZ fanfics and one of the few that is actually slash (Zim and Dib) although the content is quite mild. This is not in the ToaE universe – for obvious reasons.

Note: This is a fix. For some reason the site didn't like keeping my formatting.

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The stars are beautiful tonight. I cannot help but notice. Beautiful and alluring and mysterious when you're planet-side and looking up at them. Sometimes if you stare at them long enough, you get the feeling that every answer to every question ever asked is out there somewhere. Just waiting.

I don't remember how long ago it was that the two of us stopped trying to destroy each other. A few years… perhaps longer. Now that I think of it, I can't recall a time we have ever seriously tried to do away with each other beyond a few incidents right at the beginning. It was like we knew even back then that we were more than just enemies. Perhaps it was just a sense of kinship we felt with each other. We were both so alike – although neither of us would have admitted it at the time – both outcasts among our people. Both obsessed beyond reason… with each other.

He was the one who made the first overture of friendship, surprisingly enough. I guess I should have seen it coming long before it happened, because I often saw the way he would look at the others, the way he would speak to his sister, with a hint of near-desperate longing in his voice. He wanted to be a part of them, he wanted them to accept him and see that he could contribute and make them all better than they were. He wanted to save their miserable lives…

They needed a savior… but they didn't WANT one.

As I think of it now, perhaps there was just something else in him that they saw and recognized – and perhaps feared as well. A reason they had to hate him. He was better than they were in every sense of the word. And I know it now like I knew it then – but did not want to admit to myself either. They didn't deserve the Dib. It was as simple as that. Like a bird among fish, he could not teach them how to fly. They could not see the world as he saw it.

It was their loss, really. And my gain.

Hesitant and unsure, so unlike his normal way of approaching me, he came up and sat at the same table as me during lunch. He said nothing. I said nothing. We just sat there in a silence that was no longer seething with angry emotion. It was… companionable. As days passed in this new routine, we slowly started to talk. It was a bit strained at first, and as always laced with our uncomplimentary nicknames for each other. Gradually even those lost their bite, becoming almost affectionate.

More time passed and things changed between us. Some physical changes, as the Dib hit puberty and soon came to tower over me. And I… I on the other hand had noticed a pleasant side effect of living on this particular ball of filthy dirt. After all, it was a fairly low-gravity ball of filthy dirt. I did not gain size in bursts and leaps as the human did, but rather, slowly and gradually over long periods of time. I doubt I could ever have matched him anyway. Not in a human's lifetime – although the growth has shown no signs of stopping over the years, it proceeds at such a slow rate that it is scarcely noticeable to the naked eye.

There were other changes too… not really bad so much as faintly disturbing to me. I don't know when it was that the Dib made that final jump in emotion towards me. It had been obvious for ages that we were dependant on each other. So much so that the thought of not being around the human was enough to arouse an almost physical pain of depression in me. But it was different for him. I didn't know it though. Not until he told me himself.

He'd been wanting to for a long time, he said. I don't know how long, and it makes me wonder now. As far back as that first tentative overture of friendship? Longer? When I was confused at his cryptic words, he reached out a hand to me. There was fear in his eyes. I recognized that. I didn't understand why it was there – or what that strange other emotion lingering in his _expression was. Not until he leaned down and pressed his lips against my own.

I barely felt it at first. It was only the merest brush of contact… and then it burned. Burned worse than the cursed water on this filthy planet.

It was the first time in years that I'd struck him down. And I remember the _expression of utter shock on his face. He loved me. The poor, pathetic wormbaby loved me. And I broke his heart. What choice did I have?

My words were harsh, my voice even more so as I told him it was hopeless. That I was Irken, and that I could not possibly love a foolish stinkbeast. That I, ZIM, was incapable of feeling such a weak emotion. I didn't say he had startled me, or that I could not let myself become attached to someone I would outlive by centuries. I did not say I was afraid. Nothing frightened Zim.

For a while I thought that would be the end of our friendship as well. But he surprised me by being more resilient than I'd thought. Things went on as they always had and gradually the whole incident faded from memory, recalled only here and there when he would look at me in a certain way, or get a certain tone to his voice when he spoke.

So things were good between us. For a while…

To this day, I'll never know why the Tallest took it into their heads that I was a threat to them. Perhaps they had noticed the increase in my height and f eared it would continue. Whatever the reason, they wanted to test me. `A test of your loyalty, Zim. If you are truly an invader, how can you refuse?' And I agreed like a good little Irken. Agreed without ever asking what would be asked of me. If Dib had been in my shoes, would he have done the same, or would he have questioned first.

But to be Irken is to obey our leaders without question.

Why did they choose Dib, of all the filthy humans on this pitiful ball of dirt? Maybe because of all the times I had spoken of him in my reports. Over all this time, something must have slipped to make the Tallest think that Dib and I were less than enemies.

`Kill him.'

I couldn't believe it. I still can't. Nor did I need to believe, or even THINK about the command I was given. The Tallest gave me a task. I had to carry it out no matter what the cost.

He must have known something was wrong when I contacted him, because he came to me without question. But it wasn't until he came into my lab and saw me face to face that he knew what it was. I saw a look come into his eyes, without even any word from me, and it pained me as much as that single, hesitant kiss he had given me on the day I broke his little human heart into pieces.

I thought he would ask why. I thought he would DEMAND to know why. That he would leap and me and shriek his betrayal, and tell me how I was a piece of horrible alien filth. I think I could have handled that.

When it didn't happen, I told him flat out that I was going to kill him, trying to goad a reaction from him. He still said nothing, and so I demanded to know if there was something he wanted to do or say first, or any special way he wanted me to end his pathetic human life once and for all.

The look in those amber eyes behind their thick lenses is something I shall never forget, not even if I live to be taller than even the Tallest. `Just… pretend, Zim…'

It was obvious what he wanted, and even though I might have refused – SHOULD HAVE refused – there could be no denying the Dib-human this one last pretense. So I took him in my arms, kissed him… and I told him I loved him. And the Dib smiled at me. SMILED.

My hands were shaking as I raised the syringe. One simple injection and it would all be over… painlessly. The Tallest could make me kill Dib, but I would be damned before I would hurt him again. He held out his arm to me, and he was unperturbed by any of it… that small smile still gracing his face. Already he was as serene as the twinkling pinpoints of starlight in the sky. I envied his poise.

Our eyes were locked – magenta to amber – as the needle finally met his flesh. Even then he did not so much as quiver, and I was so unsteady I am amazed I was able to keep my feet. I have killed before in my career as an invader, but I have never done it in such a manner, watching the light fade from those eyes and feeling a gnawing of emptiness in my gut that grew with every passing moment to follow.

Then it was over. Where once there had been a person who had been an integral part of my life, there was nothing left but a dead…thing. It could not be reconciled that this still, silent thing was the same as the boy who had once threatened to expose me to the world, or the young man who had given me that tender, longing human kiss beneath the stars. But it was. Dib was gone. Gone. And this thing was all that remained. There was no going back now.

I didn't say goodbye. I just couldn't force myself to say those words. I still can't… but I'm beginning to realize that soon there will be no choice.

Gone is gone, Zim…

Yet as cruel as the death of the Dib was to me, fate still had one more dirty trick to play. When I contacted the Tallest to tell them of my deed, they seemed startled at first. They hadn't expected it of me, I suppose, knowing what the human had been. And when it finally sank in… they laughed.

They laughed at ZIM. And then they told me the truth. All of the truth, without regard to my feelings or thoughts or even that I had just killed the most important thing in my life for them.

A lie. All of it was a lie.

I lost Dib over a lie and a few moments of my superiors' petty cruelty. It is only the fact that I FOUND Dib over that same lie which keeps me clinging to what dregs of sanity I can claim to have.

Yes… the stars are lovely tonight. Dib loved to look at the stars. It was one of the things he'd confided in me long after we'd stopped being enemies and started being friends. He dreamed of visiting them someday, of seeing other worlds, different from his own but no less beautiful. I could never really share his wonder though, not I, who had lived among the stars for so long. I feel as though I'm looking at them through new eyes now.

Dib… there's nothing else I can do for you now. And there's no comforting lie I can offer to myself the way I offered one to you when you looked at me, and pleaded with me to `pretend, if only for a moment'.
No. I'm wrong. There is one more thing I can do. That I have to do.

It's why I'm out here among the stars right now.

Slowly I pat the small object sitting beside me. An urn. It's a silly human tradition that I found while spending time on earth. When someone dies, the body is reduced to ash, and the ashes scattered somewhere. Usually in a place significant to the person while they lived. Even now I want to keep them. It's all I have left of my old life. All I have left of the days of being an invader. The Tallest want nothing to do with me anymore, and I'm not sorry to say the feeling is mutual. I guess that makes me banished. I don't care.

I want to keep these ashes, but something in me knows that doing so is clinging to a past that burns me worse than all the water on this planet where I died. Invader Zim is dead. So I must find out for myself who and what I am now. And in order to do that… I have to let go.

Carefully I reach up and activate my protective air shield, opening the Voot Cruiser and going out among the stars, the urn still tucked tightly against my body. It's almost over now. And now, at last, is the time for goodbyes.

The earth didn't deserve you, Dib. No one on that filthy ball of rock and dirt deserved you. They gave up their right to you a long time ago, when they rejected everything you offered. And I don't deserve you either. Like them, I had my chance and I rejected it. It burns… it still burns…

Unstoppering the urn, I reach into it, scooping out a handful of the precious ashes, letting them slide from my fingers. I do this handful by handful, until there is nothing left inside the ceramic container – or inside me for that matter. I feel so empty now.

But free. I feel somehow free. A last gift from the Dib, I suppose. Is THIS how you thought it would feel, Dib? You belong to the stars now.

As I get back into my Voot Cruiser, I stop briefly to think about what I should do. I have no home now, and only GIR as my companion. And I am no longer an invader. So, what can I do with myself?

`Anything you want…'

I feel the sting of tears in my eyes and I smile through the grief. It is true. I can do anything I want. Go anywhere I want. I don't have Irk anymore, and I never had Earth at all. That leaves the rest of the universe out there for me to find where I belong.

Or maybe… just maybe… I belong to the stars now too…