Two of Us: Chapter 6 – Finale
The air was warm and soft, the breeze blew pure and clean form the grassy hills down past the rusty tractor, falling over the farmhouse gently. It was an antique, considered a relic of time, the huge wooden house that was a reminder that there was a time when people didn't believe in aliens, when they had dreams instead of fears, when beautiful things were all anyone had to see.
It was Dib's only reminder he had a reason to live.
The sun was just rising while birds were starting to chirp in the early morning. Dib got out of his SUV carefully, slowly taking in the grassy fields, the broken down fence, rusty machines and large fields that once had yielded fruits of the Earth. Useless in a world ruled by industrialization, but appreciated none the less by his family and himself. Home always looked better when he got there. The sadness that followed him around like a wounded animal was temporarily healed and let him alone. There were things to do, people to talk to and something he could call his own. He could pretend that nothing bad had happened, no one had died, that this little slice of reality had escaped even the painful events that had happened across the globe. It was an illusion, but a welcome one.
His kitchen was quiet when he entered. There was a sketchbook sitting on the dining table, remnants of Gurn's latest endeavours into his art and a bright plastic bracelet. The bracelet was Deen's, she had a thing for bright colours and hysterical gatherings of her fellow teens. Gir's influence everlasting no doubt. Today must have been Saturday, there was no hubbub of his children getting ready for school, nor Gaz the ever watchful 'mother hen' unconventional as she was, who took a great liking to both of them. It was almost hard to believe that cold unfeeling Gaz had practically raised his children and had done an exceptional job on top of it. Although Gurn and Gaz shared some heated moments, arguing over this and that, or glaring at each other bitterly over the breakfast table, Dib knew they both inherently liked each other. Gurn was similar to how Gaz was when they were kids; always quiet, bitterly stewing while mumbling threats of 'doom' and 'destruction' to Deen. At least he had friends though, that was one mark above he and Gaz when they were their ages.
Quietly walking up the stairs, he made it to his bed, flopped down and sighed. He had hardly the energy to change, so just ditched his trench coat to the side of his bed, laying back into the red pillows allowing a release of tension that hadn't been possible until his trip had been finished. Thoughts and moments floated by, Gurn winning an award last year for space design, Gaz keeping Deen in line despite her wanton wish to abandon school for raves, and then out of the blackness of memory Zim, smiling. He chocked back a sob and rolled over, determined to leave the tears behind.
"They belong in the field, " he whispered to himself, "not here at home."
With great resolve he rested his head afresh on the pillow. It only took a few seconds before he was fast asleep.
"Ga—aaz!" Deen whined, pouting at her brother who was glaring darkly at her.
Gaz limped out of the living room book in one hand, cane in the other, to the kitchen table.
"Gurn stop sulking. You're freaking your sister out," she sat with them as a mediator, reading. Usually a Gameslave would be in her hand, but those things had been deemed illegal wastes of energy after most of the cities and power plants were destroyed. Everyone was focused on rebuilding; it left little time for things like videogames and TV.
A bowl of cereal sat in front of Gurn, and over it he was giving death stares to Deen; who if Gaz would have asked, had drunk the last of the milk thereby disallowing Gurn to enjoy his cereal breakfast as much as he could have.
"What is your PROBLEM?" Deen asked, scowling at Gurn.
He continued glaring sourly.
Deen slammed her hands on the table, " Ugh! Just because you don't have any friends doesn't mean you can be a total jerk to everyone else! I'm so sick of your mopey bullshit!"
Gaz raised an eyebrow in her direction, "calm down Deen. Your dad's still sleeping upstairs."
"Like anything could wake him up after that stupid trip he takes every year. Gurn, I can't stand you! All you do is whine and mope about life, and hang out with the cute neighbour kid! Why he puts up with someone like you I'll never know! You two are SO disgusting!" Gurns' eyes grew very huge after that comment, "Why don't you just admit that you need people, and stop being a sour little goth boy all the time?"
The emotional rumble in the air was obvious; Gurn picked up his cereal bowl and huffed the dry chocolate cocoa fangs at Deen, who squealed on impact. Gaz almost fell off her chair trying to contain her ill timed laughter under a hacking sound, as Gurn stormed off in a rage towards the front door.
"You're worse then Dad!" Deen howled, still struggling to get the cocoa fangs out of her very gelled purple hair.
Gurn chose to ignore her comment, whipping open the front door so fast it slammed against the adjoining wall, only to pause in mid angry stride.
A little robot stood on the front step, smiling stupidly up at them.
"What the hell-" Gurn muttered, but was stopped mid sentence.
"AH MISSE-ED YOOOOU!" it squealed.
The little metallic bot glomped his face flinging him inside.
"Sweet Jebus!" Gurn screamed, "get this thing off of me! Arrrg!AAGH!" He flung his arms around, knocking over a few things, in an attempt to reclaim his head.
Deen stared at them, the slow glow of recognition forming over her features.
"It's.." she stammered, "I remember that, Gurn we used to play with him all the time! It's GIR!" she squealed ripping the bot off of her brother's face to embrace the little thing, while Gaz confounded roused herself from the table to have a look.
Deen giggled swinging the little bot around much to its delight.
"Where have you been Gir? We missed you so much!" she said, hugging it close to her.
"I was on…" a perplexed look crossed it's face, followed by one of enlightenment, "DA MOON!" it announced triumphantly.
"I doubt that," grumbled Gurn, then morbidly turned to Gaz, "so, what are we going to do about dad if he finds this thing?"
Gaz shook her head, "I'm not sure if seeing it would be good for him. Maybe we should hide it," then stared at Gir who had left Deen's hug to run around in circles around the table, squealing. She sighed, "or not. He'd find it sooner or later. That thing is hard to ignore."
Deen looked offended, "why should we hide it anyway? Who knows where it came from! Someone might have fixed it, or captured it and it found it's way here. The poor thing, it doesn't know anything more then we do!" She scooped up Gir dramatically and squished him close.
Gaz frowned, "the mere fact it did find it's way here makes me suspicious. Our location is pretty hush hush, maybe the government got a hold of it and just sent the crazy piece of metal here after they realised it wasn't a weapon."
"Or," grumbled Gurn, "the Irkens sent it here hoping it would explode and kill us all."
Gurn got a very unappreciative look from Gaz and Deen.
Gir jumped down to the floor and looked up at them with big aqua eyes, "Is da monkey still on?"
"Geez. If only you could tell us something useful," Gaz grumbled, picking it up and setting it on the table poking Gir lightly.
Gurn stared at it for a long time, silently assessing the robot. It looked back at him with large quizzical eyes. If Deen or Gaz had been looking in his direction, they would have seen the hurt that crossed Gurn's features for a moment before they resumed their usual unemotional demeanor.
"It probably came from the wreckage," he said bitterly, then much to Deen's annoyance and Gaz's disbelief, he turned, kicked the door open and left them there alone with the crazy robot, and the inevitable confrontation with his father.
"Hey..HEY!" Deen shouted, "just where the hell do you think you're going!"
"Just let him alone Deen," Gaz said frowning while shaking her head, "he's just trying to deal."
Deen pouted crossing her arms dramatically across her chest, "between him and dad I don't know who's worse."
Gir was kicking his feet over the edge of the table grinning his usual overly cheerful grin.
"We've got bigger issues with him showing up at our doorstep," she said gesturing to Gir, "it makes me wonder," she said, as she stared at him up close noting the absence of any scratches, "how the hell he made it here at all."
Dib struggled awake, still groggy and tired. He rolled over in the tangle of sheets, still wearing his clothes from yesterday; sighing. It wasn't like when he had been a kid and could stay up all night hunting Zim, never letting the thought of sleep deter him.
Zim. He was all that was in his thoughts, every dream, every waking moment, just Zim.
He raked his hands down his face in a wretched sigh, fussed with his hair and then decided it might be a good idea to creep down into the land of the living and see what was up. It was the weekend thank goodness, so he didn't have anything terribly pressing to do. Maybe work on those articles later, check to see if Deen had done her homework and if Gurn had gotten into any fights lately. His children had their quirks no doubt, but who would have thought otherwise considering where half their genes came from.
"Arg!" he growled frustrated at his mind orbiting around the all encompassing sun of his thoughts, "that's enough," he said firmly while pushing himself off the bed, "time to get up."
The blinding light assailed his eyes. Luckily Dib had stopped for a shower to help himself feel mildly awake before venturing downstairs, otherwise he would have seen the bright blinding orb and turned around to go back up for another hour or two. Dib blinked, slowly adjusting to the encroaching light as he crept closer to the kitchen, the smell of toast hanging heavy in the air. He entered the room; vision momentarily blinded, rubbing under his glasses.
"Gaz, where are Gurn and Deen," he yawned.
A dish shattered.
"Stupid stink-beast ware!" was uttered bitterly.
Dib's steps utterly froze. He rubbed his eyes again in disbelief. His shock was so profound that he would have poked them out in confusion had he the chance.
"Zim..?" he whispered, barely audible.
The tall thin alien turned, alerting Dib to his green skin and ruby eyes. There was no mistaking Zim for any other Irken, he had been the focal point of Dib's thoughts for too long to forge any false memories about his appearance. There were only two notable points that made his appearance any different then when they had last seen each other; Zim's eyes were a little darker and his left antennae was shorter then the right one.
"Ah, Dib. It's most pleasant to see you again," Zim, said a happy glimmer flitting through his eyes.
Dib was torn. He wanted to embrace him, he wanted to strangle him for leaving; above all, he wanted a damn good explanation for reappearing after years of being told by everyone around him that he was dead. However, his throat constricted and his eyes were about to well over with tears. All he could do was grab Zim by the arms and pull him in for a very tight hug.
"Where the hell WERE you!" he managed to choke out.
A high pitched voice came back with a reply, "we were on the moon. It was full of popcorn! AH LIKE TAQUITOS!"
"Gir?" Dib peered over Zim's shoulder, confounded.
"Hmm yes. Travelling through space with that thing is MOST obnoxious," Zim said with an eye twitch.
Gaz had arrived with Deen and Gurn in tow. They all simultaneously stopped and stared at the strange visitor.
Deen's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, "ZIM!" she squealed making a leap towards him, but then stopped just short, "I mean…hi." It was easy to tell by the way she hopped from one foot to the other she really wanted to cling to her other parent for dear life, but had no idea if that sort of thing was appropriate.
Gaz rolled her eyes, " Zim give her a hug before she explodes." Deen obliged by wrapping her arms around Zim squishing him quite thoroughly, "Oh, and good to see you back by the way," Gaz added, in her normal unenthusiastic tone, watery eyes betraying her real emotions, " you owe us all a damn good explanation."
There was one person in between the three that was not engaged in some kind of Zim worship. Gurn stood darkly in the doorway, his expressions convulsing between a thousand different faces before settling back to an unreadable mask. After a few moments Zim looked over and noticed his favourite offspring standing over by the door.
"Ah Gurn," Zim said, marching over to offer the traditional human embrace.
His outstretched hand however, was slapped away defiantly. Dib stood aghast watching ten thousand shades of anger flash on his son's face, while Gurn's fist clenched and unclenched beside him.
"That's all right, thanks," Gurn grumbled sourly and turned away, his heavy angry footsteps thudding their way upstairs. None of them could see from their vantage point, but tears had begun to stream down his face the moment his foot touched the stairway.
Dib shook his head, "Gurn.." but he knew better then to pursue him when he was like this. Confrontation only led to inevitable alienation; that is talking with Gurn when angry was very akin to beating one's head repetitively against a brick wall. Except the brick wall probably expressed more empathy.
Zim seemed very confused by Gurn's reaction, Dib noted, but didn't press the matter. He was overwhelmed by Gaz and Deen asking all kinds of questions.
"What have you been doing?"
"Where have you been?"
All the usual ones someone asks after a long absence.
"Yes yes it was all so very exciting," Zim said with a lacklustre intonation and an equally unenthusiastic wave of his hand, " truly a tale for another time. Right now I demand TOAST!"
Deen, giggling like she was on crack went to make Zim toast, while Dib sat back on the kitchen chair with his hand gripping the armrest so hard his fingers were turning white. He pressed his other hand nervously to his t-shirt, fiddling with a tiny fold in the cloth; watching. It was unbelievable what he was seeing now, how this situation came into being. He had never dreamed realistically that Zim would ever return alive, then suddenly there he was. It was wonderful, it was painful, it was years of turmoil and agony rolled into a single moment. He couldn't let go of the chair and thusly couldn't rise, just like he couldn't let go of the anger that was creeping up inside of him slowly strangling his joy.
"Years," he whispered in his head, "it's been years and not a fucking word."
Despite that, when Zim announced markedly in his haughty tone that he was now unpacking, Deen was the first one to jump up and offer to help.
"Feh, I suppose that's all right," Zim said with a wave of his claw, "but Dib and Gir should come too. There's a lot to unload from the voot."
And with that, it was like nothing had changed in Zim's mind. He was the ruler of his little slice of Earth, of Gurn, Deen, Gaz and most of all Dib. However, Dib's hands were shaking as he stood; Zim really didn't understand. He didn't know that things had changed more then he could comprehend, how much had transpired. Maybe he had read somewhere, or had seen some videos, but that didn't make it the same as experiencing it. He hadn't known about the hospital, the horrible day Dib realised all his friends were dead, did he even know that his Dad had passed away? Did Zim have any idea that the neighbourhood he had called home for so many years didn't even exist anymore? Above all, to an alien species that probably lived three times longer then a human, did any of this matter at all? A huge knot was in his stomach. He wanted to talk to Zim alone, he wanted to make him see that he just couldn't come back after years and expect his family to be perfectly all right with it. Gurn was the number one obvious example of that and Zim didn't even seem to care about the way he had acted at all. All that unresolved tension from their early years of living together came flooding back in a horrible wave; he couldn't stop thinking that Zim really didn't care about anything but a 'mission' after all. And if Zim didn't care about him, then what the hell had he been holding onto all this time? It felt like he had been living in a room filled with smoke and mirrors.
"Are you coming Dib?" Gaz said as she passed him standing there awkwardly, "and close your mouth. You're almost drooling on yourself."
Dib laughed brokenly, "gee thanks Gaz."
"C'mon. Your lover boy's back. Time to go get his stuff…," she paused looking at him with a single arched eyebrow, "uh Dib…are you ok?"
"I'm fine," he said lifelessly. And in pure Gurn fashion it was the only answer he willingly offered.
Gaz shrugged choosing not to respond to his cold expression, "then we should get going."
Listlessly Dib trudged out the door. Secretly inside there was nothing he'd rather do right now then grab Zim aside and talk, no, demand an explanation for the hell he had lived through; however, he knew there would be time later and he would have to be content with merely dragging his stuff back from the voot. It was just like old times, annoyingly so. Dib ever playing the doormat while Gaz, Deen and Zim trudged all over him with abandon. He suddenly felt more akin to those horrid housewives with their unappreciative white trash husbands; except his so called 'husband' was an alien. Literally.
After they had gathered what they needed and brought it back, Zim announced he had to go run some errand to their 'pitiful Earth government'.
"You're leaving again?" Dib had said flatly, while sitting on the porch resting his head on one hand.
"For a while. Then I return to our home," Zim had said eyeing Dib in his wretched state then commenting, "you should take in more food. You're getting pathetic."
Dib had stared in disbelief as he just walked off to the voot in the field, casting a lanky shadow across the wheat before slipping into his vehicle and lifting off, vanishing into the sky again, hardly looking down.
What a moment this was for him as he sat on the porch staring up at the empty sunset. He was there so long it became a sky full of stars. With little bravado he pulled himself off the porch and staggered world weary into the house. He had someone he had to talk to in there, his son who was suffering.
The room was in its usual state when he entered it. Black and grey, with some posters of campy saucer films on the walls, peppered here and there with space photos of various planets. Gurn was lying with his back to the door in the bed alcove, chest rising and lowering gently, but not obvious enough to suggest sleep.
Dib sighed and drug a chair from the desk over to the side of the bed, " think you're ready to talk about what's bothering you?"
The body shuffled and rolled, faintly Dib could hear a grunt of irritation coming from it.
"I don't need pity," was the cold quit reply.
Dib laughed, maybe more cruelly then he had intended, "Gurn, you of all people in this situation do not need any pity. Just spit it out, why did you treat Zim that way? He's your other parent, he's alive, and you and I and probably a good chunk of the rest of the world thought he was dead. He's a hero, a…"
But Dib wasn't allowed to finish as his eyes were met with angry red irises staring accusingly.
"He's no hero," Gurn spat out, "he left both of us. And you feel the same way! I saw the way you acted, except you're worse then me because you just pretend everything's all right, just like you have for years. What's worse, Dib, my indignancy or your masquerade?"
He was taken aback by his son's words, " Gurn, I'm not Dib, I'm your father. If we hear out Zim, maybe things can be explained."
"That's a load of bull and you know it," was the annoyingly truthful statement.
"No, it's not. You don't know the whole story! Who knows what he's been through? Maybe he's been through worse then us!" he realised his voice was raising, matching Gurn's fever pitch. He realised poignantly that he was only arguing because it stung to be told exactly what he had been feeling.
Gurn had propped himself on his hands. In the dim light Dib could see faint tear streaks on his face, and eyes slightly irritated from crying.
"Get out of my room," a chillingly cold request.
Dib knew that this was the time when any person in their right mind would leave Gurn to his own devices. In fact, he knew he had been stupid to bring this up in the first place, the boy was more stubborn then him and Zim combined, which if one thought about it, was an astronomical level. With that admonition Dib did nothing but silently recoil out of the room back into the hallway feeling slighted defeated. He didn't realise what Gurn had been staring at while sitting in his bed all that time. Hanging on the wooden board across from the bed, was the picture Gurn had drawn as a child of Zim and Dib holding hands, under the stars.
Dib had walked lackluster downstairs. He sat as he had sat so many nights alone, at the kitchen table. Gaz had come down for a moment to say goodnight but had since left him with his thoughts. It was like it had always been. Dib, feeling utterly powerless waiting for Zim to come home. He sniffed noticing that tears had begun to slide down his cheeks, he was afraid even this time as Zim left, that it would just turn out be a dream and he would be forced to resume life upon waking; listless and solitary. Was love worth this kind of torture? The question couldn't help but be presented to him.
"Yes," he whispered into the moon doused kitchen, wiping his eyes, "yes it is."
So maybe, when the door opened and Zim came creeping in he felt a huge sense of relief. Just maybe in Dib's mind he had already forgiven him for any transgression he might have made against their relationship, intentional or not. Perhaps he had even still loved him deeply, despite feeling unquestionably angry and betrayed.
He still couldn't help the anger creeping into his voice when he adressed him with a stern, "we need to talk."
Zim stopped in the doorway hand held lankily at his sides.
"Gir why don't you go have a nap somewhere on someone's head," he said to the little robot.
"Yes my master!" Gir flashed, then scurried away upstairs.
"You improved that thing didn't you," Dib said smiling slightly.
Zim nodded affirmatively, "made a pit stop in Irk. Got some parts."
There was an uncomfortable silence as the two observed each other. Dib noticed that Zim's eyes looked far more tired and worn then they had earlier.
"Want to take a walk outside?" Dib suggested.
Zim agreed and they made their way past the door of the farmhouse into the fields, together.
There was a grassy knoll a few minutes walk from the house. Dib sat himself down on it and looked up at the sky filled with stars. Zim sat next to him seemingly preoccupied with the ground.
"Dad's dead." Dib said, "so is Zita, if you remember her from skool."
"I knew about Professor Membrane, my condolences for the Zita," Zim said nonchalantly.
Dib tried his best not to show his frustration, "I've been doing all the talking lately Zim. It's your turn. Tell me what happened," Dib choked back his tears, "where were you?"
Zim's antennae twitched slightly, "when I left I wasn't sure if I would ever make it back to Earth. The Irken Armada was planning to blow the planet up from the inside out. Obviously that plan failed, only because at the last minute the incompetent resisty finally managed to screw up the Massive enough that it blew up. I had a hand in helping them with your father's invention. The tallest haven't been located. Perhaps they're dead, perhaps not but there's a whole armada of planets looking for them. If they aren't dead they'll be found and charged for crimes against all universal life," Zim shuffled uncomfortably, "since the Irkens were mutual enemies of many star systems the planet was attacked and completely destroyed."
Dib swallowed, "wouldn't that…kill all the Irkens? I thought the controller brains were the ones keeping the pacs working…"
"It killed most. But not all. When the pacs malfunctioned a few managed to be spared. They've all been rounded up and sent to prison camps." He finished.
"Doesn't that bother you?" asked Dib.
"Not really. They never liked me much anyway." He said nonchalant.
"What happened to you after that?" Dib said, trying to contain his frantic voice.
"You won't like the answer," Zim glowered.
"I don't care. Just tell me. Tell me anything," he sighed, "You owe me that. You owe your children…"
Dib was interrupted by a shrieaking Zim, " You didn't THINK I knew that! Of course I did. The world was IMPLODING like some hideous imploding thing! I thought you were in that spaceship safe and sound but instead you decided to idiotically return to the stupid ball of Earth," he seethed.
"You didn't think I could just…leave everyone to their doom? And I didn't know anything about what you and dad were doing! That hurt Zim! That really stung!" and he was filled with the most righteous anger he had ever felt, it was just coursing through his veins making him raise his voice and say things that he begrudgingly admitted maybe he shouldn't have said.
"I didn't matter anyway, in that stupid Irken machine I was badly injured. They picked me up and sent me to Irk in chains as some kind of farcical war criminal. Like your stupid Earth Government cared about humans, let alone a single alien! I was considered the enemy even after Irk was destroyed and I was rescued! That's right Dib, I was stuck here on Earth for years all along in some kind of miserable jail made by your foolish Earth Government. The resisty just handed me over like a piece of meat to be poked and prodded and killed as if it was nothing. And I was the one that helped them blow up the massive! None of it would have been possible if it weren't for me ZIM using your invention! I didn't know they had you or Gurn or what happened to anyone. And all I could think about was…" Zim's voice became suddenly quiet, "all I could think about….was finding you."
They sat in silence for a little while.
"I had years of waiting in that cell not knowing anything. Suddenly one day they came," Zim said, "that's when they made a deal with me and let me out. That they wouldn't persecute us or the smeets if I did what I was told."
"Zim," said Dib, as a horrible feeling crawled through his body, "they told me you were dead. They even had the last video you sent through your mech. They let me watch it. I was devastated. I couldn't even think or eat or do anything after seeing that. All these years they've just been giving me money, telling me to keep my mouth shut about whatever happened to me and my family. And they KNEW they had you! I'm convinced! I'm convinced that's why they let us both off the hook at all! They just used us…" Dib sniffed tearfully.
Zim's claw rested on his head. The wind whistled through Dib's hair and the grass shushed quietly across the lonely fields. Dib exhaled, trying to calm himself.
"A lot of damage has been done," he said slowly, methodically, " but we can repair it. We can escape whatever trap they set for us. Just promise me one thing…"
Dib reached up and touched Zim's hand. They now held hands under the cold starless sky. Dib was shaking.
"Never leave me again."
It went unspoken. There was a lot of work to do. They laid on the grass holding each other's hands with confidence. It was just the two of them; it had always been the two of them perhaps against the entire world. And now all the dreams and nightmares had been fulfilled. They would always have each other, now and forever no matter what foe stood in their way.