A/N: This is the first story I've ever written that focuses solely on romance. I'll tell you right now, it's rather forced. And the ending is unbelievably sappy. But I couldn't help myself. I just had to write a Dib/Gretch fic because there are so few of them. So . . . Here it is. Beware the OOC cuteness.

Disclaimer: Dib, Gretchen, and all the other characters belong to Viacom. Evil company that it is.

A chilling north wind whipped against Dib's hair and coat as he stood just outside the otherworldly glow of Zim's freakish house. The alien had recently increased his security, such that Dib couldn't even enter the yard. He knew that Zim had to be up to something, but what? Hopefully nothing like last Christmas; what a disaster.

"I won't let you ruin my Christmas this year, Zim," he muttered, glaring at the eery green walls. The impromptu structure had stood at the end of the small cul-de-sac for over two years. Why had no one else noticed anything strange about this house? Sometimes Dib had a horrible feeling that nothing would ever convince anyone that Zim was an alien. Heck, nobody had believed his perfectly clear video of Zim and Gir, out of their disguises, with a wierd glowy thing!

Dib sighed. People saw what they wanted to see. If only they wanted to see the truth.

The wind blew ever colder, and of course Dib wasn't wearing a hat or gloves. He shivered and stared at the overcast sky. Maybe he should call it quits for the night. He had been outside for almost two hours. I'll find out what he's up to tomorrow, he told himself. Though he had a feeling that if he did find out anything it would be via the local news station. That's the way it often went. The young paranormalist began the well worn trek home, eager to get out of the cold. Soon it began to snow, and Dib raised his arm to shield his glasses from the tiny flurries. He almost didn't see the little figure standing hunched at a street corner, apparently waiting to cross. Dib would have missed it completely if it hadn't coughed. He glanced at it and did a double take when he saw its three distinctive pigtails.


The girl turned and looked up at him, her downcast eyes brightening a little.

"What are you doing out here by yourself?" asked Dib, moving in a little closer.

Gretchen gave a shivering sigh. Like Dib, she was underdressed, with only a thin purple jacket to protect her from the elements.

"Well, I took the bus to the mall to buy a Christmas present for my mom. I wanted to get her something special 'cause she's in the hospital."

"Really? Why?"

"Appendicitis." Gretchen kicked at the overly salted sidewalk in effort to get some feeling back into her toes. "She'll be okay, it's just . . . She won't be able to come home till after Christmas."

"I'm sorry."

" 'S'all right. Anyways, I spent a long time looking for the perfect present. Hey, you wanna see?"

Dib wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but he knew he hadn't been expecting a pair of ceramic chickens.

"They're salt and pepper shakers. My mom likes collecting wierd little knick knacks like these." She shrugged, noticing Dib's blank expression. "I thought they were cute anyway."

"They're . . . nice . . ." he said uncertainly.

"Um, thanks." She shoved the tacky glass fowls back into her pocket. "I had to wait in the checkout line forever. It took a lot longer than I thought it would." She stared at her feet. "I missed the last bus to my neighborhood."

"Where do you live?"

"On Beech Street."

"That's a long way from here."

Gretchen nodded. "So what about you? Do you, uh, live near here?"

Was that a blush he saw? Probably just from the cold. "Yeah, my house is about a five minute walk from here." He paused. "Look...You're welcome to come to my house and warm up for a while before you walk home. I think we still have some hot chocolate, if Gaz hasn't drunk it all..."

Gretchen's eyes grew wide. "You mean it? I mean, I wouldn't want to be a bother..."

"It's no big deal, I was going there anyway."

"Oh . . . Well, thank you," said Gretchen, still hardly daring to believe that Dib was inviting her to his house.

The two began to walk in the direction of the house as flurries continued to sprinkle their hair and clothes. After a moment, Gretchen spoke up timidly.

"Dib? What were you doing out here anyway?"

"Oh, well, you know . . ." he shrugged a bit sheepishly. "Spying on Zim."

Gretchen simply nodded. She should have guessed that much, but she wasn't the quickest of thinkers.

Dib sighed. "Actually I didn't even see him today, just his robot through the window. I know he's planning something big, but what? How can I stop his plan if I don't even know what it is?!"

Gretchen reached out her hand hesitantly and placed it on his shoulder. "It's okay, Dib." She smiled, trying to reassure him. "It'll be okay. You'll see."

He stopped in his tracks. Not since he was five had anyone tried to comfort him like this. Such a simple, childlike statement, yet Dib wanted to believe her. Wanted to, but knew better. Still, he smiled a little.

"Thanks. But you don't know Zim like I do."

Gretchen withdrew, not knowing what else to say. She wasn't sure if Zim was an alien or not, but she was pretty certain that he wasn't dangerous. True, he'd done some freaky things in the past, but he'd never hurt anyone . . . that badly. She wished Dib wouldn't worry so much about what Zim was doing; it wasn't good for him to be so stressed. But nothing she could say at this moment would change that, so she continued to walk with Dib in silence, forgetting about the green kid and just savoring the moment she had alone with the boy of her dreams. What better Christmas could she ask for?

In a few minutes they came to Dib's house. He unlocked the door and held it open for her before entering himself. A tree was propped in the corner of the living room, halfheartedly decorated with a few ornaments. The widescreen TV was showing "When Santas Attack" for the third time.

"I'll go see if we have any hot chocolate. You can stay in here and watch TV if you want."

"I'll go with you," said Gretchen.

Gaz looked up from the couch as they walked towards the kitchen, then turned back to the program with a shrug.

"We have double chocolate and marshmallow lovers," Dib said into the cabinet.

"I want marshmallow lovers, please," said Gretchen, looking around the unusual kitchen, illuminated by blue-green lights that covered the entire ceiling.

"Good choice." Dib set the box on the counter. "Gaz likes the other kind," he explained.

In a few moments they were settled at the kitchen table, slowly sipping the chocolate, marshmallowy goodness. Dib stared at his own pale hands wrapped around the hot mug, then he glanced up at the purple haired girl sitting across the table. Her eyes squinted rather cutely as she drank from the mug, obviously enjoying herself.

"Ahh," she sighed happily, setting the mug on the table. "You make good hot chocolate."

Dib raised an eyebrow. "It's from a package."

Her face grew red; this time it was definitely a blush. "Well, yeah, but whenever I make it I usually end up adding too much water or something."

"You should try using milk."

Gretchen blinked as though this were an incredibly novel notion. "Milk?"

"Yeah. It'll make it taste better. Richer, I guess."

"Oh, uhm...Thanks, I'll try that." She took another long sip from her mug.

"So, Gretchen," Dib spoke up after a moment. "Are you at home by yourself now? I mean, do you have any other family?"

"My dad. But he has to work from seven in the evening till nine in the morning. And he sleeps most of the day."

"That stinks. My dad works a lot too."

"What..." Gretchen hesitated, knowing it was sort of a taboo subject. "...Where's your mom?"

Dib stared hard at the rim of his mug. "There was an accident. I don't like to talk about it."

"Oh. Okay." Then, "I'm sorry." Gretchen wished she hadn't brought it up now. She hadn't meant to make Dib feel bad. Taking one last drink of hot chocolate, she stood. "I guess I'd better be going, it's getting really late. Thanks for the hot chocolate."

Dib stood hastily. "Here, I'll find something warmer for you to wear first."

"Oh no, I wouldn't want to-"

"It's all right, I think we still have Dad's old coat that he never wears. He won't even know it's missing." He walked to the seldom used coat closet and produced a thick winter coat. It was quite large on Gretchen but it would keep her nice and warm.

"Um, what are you doing?" she asked as Dib pulled out another coat.

"Well, I wouldn't want you to walk all that way by yourself . . ." Dib reddened slightly.

"But Dib, I--I wouldn't want you to walk all the way back by yourself!"

"I can handle it."

"But you've already been so nice to me. And I don't even know why!" she blurted. She almost when on to say that Dib had never even noticed her before today, but felt that she had said enough about uncomfortable subjects for one night.

Dib faltered a bit. "Well . . . A lot of reasons, really. I guess I feel kinda bad for you. And it is Christmas, or close to it. And . . . and you listened to me when I told you about Zim, and you didn't call me crazy or make fun of my head or anything. You even...well, you even tried to comfort me." He rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully. "You're the first person to really treat me like a human being."

"What about..." Gretchen hesitated. Oh well, so much for not saying anything uncomfortable. "What about...Tak?"

Dib frowned. "Tak tried to empty the Earth's core and fill it with snacks!"

"Did she?" This was news to Gretchen.

"Yes," Dib sighed. "See, Tak was really an alien, the same race as-"

"Will you two yak somewhere else?" interrupted Gaz, who was in an unusually good mood. "This is the best part and I can't even hear it!"

"What's to hear? It's just growling and shooting."

Gaz's eyes slitted open dangerously as she grabbed a random pencil holder. Dib and Gretchen didn't wait to find out what she planned on doing with it.

"I think we'd better go," Dib said unnecessarily, and with that they darted out into the cold.

The flurries had let up, but the freezing temperature hadn't. Still, Gretchen had never been on a better walk. She listened as Dib told her about Tak and some of the other aliens he'd encountered. There were quite a lot, actually. Gretchen in turn told Dib about her pet snails and the life time supply of soda in her basement. Her stories weren't as interesting as Dib's, but he didn't mind.

All too soon, it seemed, they arrived at Gretchen's house.

"Well, this is it. Thanks so much. For everything." She smiled, gazing into his amber eyes for a moment. Then she planted a quick kiss on his cheek. "Merry Christmas," she whispered.

"Merry Christmas," he murmered in shock, feeling warmth spread from the spot where Gretchen's lips had touched him.

"I'll...see you at skool then?" she asked softly, her face a bright shade of scarlet.

Dib nodded wordlessly, feeling lightheaded.

"All right then. G'night." She turned to unlock the door.

Dib felt curiously warm as he walked home that freezing night. He didn't think he'd ever feel cold again.