"So you finally did it."

I opened my eyes to see him standing over me, smirking at me in that way that used to drive me absolutely insane with aggravation. I sat up, rubbing my head. A glance at my surroundings showed that I was on the cliff that overlooked the city. The place where I buried Gaz and had my next to final confrontation with the figure that now had sat down beside me, making himself comfortable.

I stared at him, incredulously. He, like everything else in the area, was bathed in a faint white glow, softening his features like we were in an old 30's movie.

"I finally did what?" I asked him, wondering why he was so comfortable sitting beside his killer. I noticed he was without his disguise. I guess he didn't need it anymore.

He made a gesture that I could only guess signified that he was rolling his eyes, as he had no pupils in his ocular implants, "Finally saved the world, stupid. You know, what you had been trying to do for the past however many years. You've accomplished your life's goal. What are you going to do, now?"

I resisted to urge to make a comment about Disney World and looked at the ground, plucking a blade of grass and playing with it idly. "I don't know," I answered after a few moments, "There's so much to do, so much to rebuild. There are also a lot of Irkens' left on the planet, you know, though with the Tallests and the Brains gone, they're pretty much just wandering around directionless."

Zim shrugged, "You could always let them help rebuild—adopt them as members of your planet."

I was appalled. "What? What the hell makes you think that that would work? There's no way—"

"—that you could become friends with your enemy?" He interrupted, a smug look on his face.

I huffed and tossed the blade of grass at him. "Yeah, something like that." I replied. Something occurred to me, "Hey, what are you doing here, anyhow? You're…well, you know. Dead."

He shrugged again, "You tell me, Dib-Monkey, this is your subconscious."

"So I'm dreaming?"

"Something like that." A different voice answered. I looked up, and jumped instantly to my feet.

"Kala?" I couldn't believe it. I stood there like an idiot, staring at her as she closed the last few feet between us. Vaguely I noticed Zim standing as well. I reached my hand out and gently touched Kala's cheek. She smiled and flicked me gently on the nose.

"I'm real, Dib. You can close your mouth now. A fly will buzz in and make it's home."

I obeyed, but still my eyes wouldn't dare blink, "Oh, Kala, I'm so—"

She held her hand to my mouth, silencing me, "Shh. Don't apologize. I understand."

I grabbed her wrist, removing her fingers from my lips, "No, you don't. Those things I said to you—our last few conversations. I didn't mean to be so horrible. It's not because I didn't—"

She shook her head again, "Dib, I know." She replied, once again interrupting me, "Didn't that talk with your sister teach you anything? Stop blaming yourself. The people who love you know why you do the things you do. We understand. There is no need for apologies. You just need to learn to let go."

My sister. Gaz. My heart skipped a beat. "Is…is she here? Is she here, too?"

Zim laughed, "Like I said, Dib-Beast: it's your subconscious."

I glanced over at him and then looked back at Kala, who was nodding. "You can see anyone you want, Dib, you just have to believe that you can."

Belief. The one thing that I had never had a shortage of, which was now the one thing that I lacked. Belief. Hope. Words that really had no meaning for me now. Things that I had once treasured which now seemed so distant.

Kala must have read the thoughts behind my drawn expression because she sighed and moved behind me, covering my eyes with her cupped hands, careful not to touch and smear the lenses of my glasses.

"Focus." Her breath tickled my ear. I felt myself shiver involuntarily. "Close your eyes and focus on your memories. Think about who you want to see, who you want to speak to. Imagine them here, with you. Remember what they looked like, how they smiled. If you can see them with your eyes closed, then you will finally remember how to believe."

I sighed, resigned, but allowed myself to be swayed by her voice. I remembered Gaz's hair, her affinity for video games. I remembered Gir's manic ramblings, Gretchen's braces when we were children, Elizabeth's habit of repeatedly pushing her glasses back on her nose, even when she had taken them off. I remembered the way my father always smelled of aftershave and ammonia, how my mother used to hum while doing the dishes. I remembered how Alex always gave the strongest hugs, and Torque used to see how many small places he could shove me into when we were children.

I focused, and remembered, smelling, tasting, feeling things I hadn't in years. Putting myself back into situations where I felt safe, that I dreaded, where I felt most alive. I slowly became aware of noise rising around me. Voices, laughter. I bit my lip a bit unconsciously, butterflies appearing in my stomach. Had it worked? Did I believe? Was that all it took?

Kala removed her hands from my eyes and I was forced to take in a sudden breath. There they were. All of them. Alive and well, mingling as if they were at a bar-b-q at the Forth of July, and shouldn't, in all actuality, be rotting in a grave somewhere.

Elizabeth and Gir sat under the oak tree, feeding squirrels with nuts that Gir kept randomly shooting out of his head. Gretchen, Torque and Alex were huddled in a group with several of my troops, talking quietly. I noticed a football clutched in Torque's hands. People were everywhere, throwing Frisbees, talking, clapping each other on the back, shaking hands. They were all here. They were all alright. I breathed out a giant sigh, feeling a smile grow on my face.

Kala had her arm around my shoulder. "See?" She asked, "That wasn't that hard, now was it?"

"No," I breathed, "No, it really wasn't." Still, something was missing. I turned towards her and Zim, both of whom were looking at me with bemused expressions on their faces. "But—" Whatever I was going to protest was cut short as I noticed the figures approaching from behind my friends. A man and a woman, he with a tall spike of black hair, her with locks of shimmering violet, their arms around each other as they walked like a couple of newly weds. They stopped a few feet away from us, smiles in their eyes to match the ones on their lips.

"Hello, Son." The man greeted.

"Dad?" I breathed, afraid that if I spoke too loudly, I would break the spell. I turned my gaze to the woman, who had tears on her cheeks, even as she smiled, "Mom?"

"My baby," the woman sighed, laughing breathlessly, "my son."

I took a tentative step as they both opened their arms, welcoming me. A few more feet and I was in their arms, my mother crying softly into my shoulder, my father's arm strong around my back.

My mother pulled back from me and took my face into her hands, "You're all grown up." She whispered, running her fingers over the contours of my face, "You're a man, now. I'm so sorry, my dear, I'm so sorry I left you alone." She was openly crying, now. I shook my head, shushing her.

"It's alright, Mom. You did what you felt you had to." I chuckled inwardly, realizing I was repeating words that were spoken to me only moments before. I guess I was the one who was ultimately more like our mother. Perhaps I was the one who had needed the protection all these years, and not my sister. Speaking of…

I pulled away from my parents' embrace and scanned the crowd. Where was she? I know that I had focused on her as well as everyone else, so where…

"Hey, loser." I heard her voice from behind me and turned to face her. She stood there, in all of her spooky glory, wearing my trench coat over her plaid skirt, her necklace now back in its rightful place around her pale neck. I put one arm around our mother, and held my other out towards Gaz. She looked uncomfortable for a minute, chewing on her bottom lip, as she glanced from me to our mother to our father, and then chuckled and stepped forward into our embrace.

"Awww." I heard Gir's voice call out, "They gonna make babies!"

There was a large chorus of "ewww"s and other such comments and Gaz and I looked at each other and laughed as we heard Zim yell at the bot, trying to explain the difference between "family unit love" and that which causes "horrible reproductive acts".

My family and I pulled away from each other and made ourselves comfortable on the grass, joined by Kala and eventually, after he was able to calm the SIR unit down, Zim and Gir. After a few moments of pleasant conversation I turned towards my sister.

"So," I began, "are you proud of your big brother? You know, that whole 'saving the world' thing I just did?"

She rolled her eyes, and scoffed, "Yeah, yeah, don't remind me."

I laughed and then looked at her seriously, gazing into her eyes that were so much like my own, "Thank you, Gaz. You…you really were there for me. Thank you."

She blushed and then held up one small fist, "Don't get used to it, alright? I can still kick your ass."

Chuckling, I reached out and, with a little shove, pushed her over. She sat back up, glaring at me indignantly, and moved forward as if to strike me, pulling it at the last moment to give me nothing but a playful tap on the chin. She smiled at me with her little half smile. "Jerk."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." I answered. All conversation ceased then as fireworks appeared overhead. The sun had set, and it seemed the Independence Day celebrations had begun.


A/n: The above is a sort of epilogue. I wasn't originally intending to write anything like that, but since FFN won't let a chapter be purely Author's Note material, I figured I would write out something little. I figured, also, after all of that angst, it would be good to leave it off with a warm feeling in everyone's tummy. Hopefully it didn't distract from the content of the story that preceded it.

I want to, again, thank everyone who reviewed this fic, and everyone who read it but kept silent. While this isn't my first attempt at Fanfiction (I wrote a few JTHM fics under the name Jenna5, that, while aren't horrible, aren't really that great. One is the obligatory Nny/Devi fic which, now that I'm three years older have realized is completely against the entire point of the Nny/Devi story line. The other is what could have ended up a Mary Sue if I had finished it, which I began before I even knew really what a Mary Sue was. You guys can look them up and read them if your interested, and I appreciate, still, feedback, but really…they're not that special. But I digress…) While this isn't my first attempt at Fanfiction, this is my first IZ story and the first that I actually REALLY wanted to do well on and REALLY wanted to get out. I wanted this story to be told. I wanted these views to be put forth, whether they are truly understood by the reader or not. So thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who put forth an interest in this story. It really means a whole lot.

Dibsthe1 expressed an interest in knowing what the dream was that inspired this. Before I try to explain anything or get to anyone's questions, I figure I'll stick it on here. So here it is, copied directly from my Livejournal (yes, like most everyone else in the world, I have an LJ because I'm deluded enough to think that people care about my day. The name is Forgottenrain incase anyone wants to play into my delusions.) (Ugh, reading this now reminds me of how, a year ago, I really didn't care how I typed on that thing. Please ignore the lack of punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc…Hey, at least it isn't AOL speak. shudder)

(Feb 28th, 2004)

had one of my weird re-occurring dreams last nite.

this one is about the earth being taken over by aliens. and not just ANY aliens, but the ones from mars attacks (which, man, i wanna watch that movie, now...). the only peeple that werent enslaved or killed are me, and my random british dream guy. (who, i just realized because my dreams are that realistic, even has a boy smell. that so weird. i need to pay more attn. thats just cool.) anyhow.

so the head alien thing is a giant brain. yes, like on ninja turtles. and he has a 2nd in command/body guard who is human.

so my alex (random guy) and i invade the ship and start kickin alien ass. we find a dog that the aliens were gonna do horrible tests on, so we let him come with us. further down the line, the doggy gets shot, and i have to kill him to put him out of his misery.

so we make it thru the ship to the command center, and fight with the body guard guy. we kick his ass, but in his last shot, he kills alex. i get uber pissed off, and take his coat (he was wearing a long leather trench) and go to kick some brain ass.

i make it to where the brain is. for some reason the body guard guy is still alive (tho shot up to hell), and the brain is just kinda hangin out on this elevator thing. the brain asks me to listen to what it has to say, and i do, in pure video game/action movie style. so i get on the elevator with the brain (its more like a floor panel that moves up and down...there arnt any walls or roof...) and look up to see the body guard put a gun in his mouth and blow out his own brains.

the brain and i get to the bottom floor and he informs me that i called it there. that it was really my brain, and i wanted the world to die. i told him that wasnt true, and he asked my why i never showed any remorse when i had to kill the dog. i told him that i was doing it a favor and it would have suffered if i hadnt. he told me that was how i viewed the entire world, in my heart. that everyone was suffering, and it would be best to put them out of their misery. that i was the one controlling everything.

there was then a series of flashbacks and i realize that hes right and start bawling.

this time i woke up then. other times ive had this dream, i either kill myself or kill the brain...i think that this is the first time ive woken up before making that decision one way or the other.

So yeah. There it is, in a nutshell. I changed quite a bit to make it make more sense and to fit the IZ universe, but the basic meaning is still there.

Now for the fun part:

Senri had brought up in a review of ch 8 a hint of GAZR. When I wrote it, that really was in the back of my mind, and I leave it really up to reader's interpretation. Personally, I don't see the attraction in Zim, so I don't see the attraction that Gaz would have for him. In my mind, in this they just cared for each other deeply, as friends and nothing more. However, it would explain why Gaz was so determined that Zim would never harm her.

Which brings me to Maran Zelde's comment about how he must not have cared about her to kill her so disturbingly. Unfortunately, by writing this from only Dib's point of view, I limited myself as to the knowledge that the reader would have of the occurrences within the story. This works to my advantage in that I had no reason to detail what exactly happened, which works cos I would rather not write anything too gory, but leaves me with the disadvantage in that I can't tell what Zim is feeling during all that. I mention that he never really wanted to kill Gaz and had no choice in the matter, but don't explain why he had to do it in such a…disgusting, yet thorough manner. The way I picture it, the Tallests asked him to torture her for their amusement, knowing that, while it would bother Zim to kill his friend, it would destroy him to watch her suffer. They wanted him to crack. They wanted an excuse to kill him, then, as a traitor, when he couldn't go though with it. Zim understood this and felt so much anger at the fact that after a while he stopped thinking that this was Gaz he was hurting, but focused instead on his rage towards his leaders, imagining them as the ones he was inflicting the pain on. He did this to distance himself from the situation. Her blood painted the walls, not because he didn't care for her, but because that was the only way that he would have been able to go through with it.

If that makes any sense to anyone other than me.

Senri also brought up that Zim's brain is kept in is pak, and therefore, is he really dead? Honestly, I kinda forgot that fact as I was writing this, and I figure that, if he wasn't dead before the sprinkler system turned on, he sure as hell was afterwards, seeing as how the water would have burned his body beyond repair and more than likely shorted out the circuitry of his pak.

And now for the many questions of Dibsthe1, who I must say, has been absolutely awesome throughout the writing of this fic, being someone, through email correspondence, that I could bounce ideas off of which, in the long run, allowed me to fully develop my own views on the characters and their actions. So yay to her.

Dib is acting out of just being human, you're right. He is, in fact, the most human character in the story, and on the show. Which is, I guess, what ultimately makes him flawed by nature.

In my opinion, no, there is no such thing as true kindness or self sacrifice. Everything we, as humans, do is, in some way, for our own personal gain. Whether it be public recognition, a spot in heaven if you believe in that, or just because it makes yourself feel good, anything you do is for you and you alone. Which sounds horrible, but makes sense in the long run.

A good friend of mine once told me that love is the most selfish emotion there is. You don't love someone because of the way you make them feel, but rather because of the way they make you feel. You don't fall in love with someone thinking "man, I really make him happy." You fall in love because "I feel so wonderful when he's around. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel special/beautiful/wanted." It's always me, me, me. Yes, we often put ourselves on the line and yes, we make sacrifices for that person, and yes, we often become hurt, but we only do that because we don't want to let go of something that made Us feel Good.

Dib holds on to and protects his sister because she's the only real person in his life, up until Zim shows up. His mother is gone physically, his father is gone emotionally, at least Gaz is There, in the room with him. He puts up with her bullshit—the abuse and the irritation—because as long as she's there, he isn't alone in the world. It isn't some kind of self sacrificing masochistic behavior because he really thinks that she needs his protection—it's just simply that he doesn't want to be left alone. He wants to feel that someone gives a damn about him.

Which is how I feel that he looks at the rest of the world. He Wants that recognition. He Wants that vindication, to show the world that he's Not crazy, and that everything he's been saying Is correct. He wants to be important. He wants to be needed and loved. He's human, and in that, he is selfish and flawed, just like everyone else in the world.

Humanity really wasn't saved, nor would it have been, either way. We're destined to destroy ourselves—to run each other into the ground. It's only a matter of centuries or millennia, but eventually, it will occur. Someone will become too greedy, we will become too accustomed to playing god, and eventually a bomb will go off or a genetically created virus will get loose and that's all she wrote. Whether or not the Irkens would have won in this fic, humanity is still doomed. I think, though, we would just feel a little better about it.

Dib isn't really a bad guy, he's just, as I stated, human and flawed. But yes, in this fic, Dib does discover that the true villain has been himself all along. The things that the Brains were saying were accurate, whether they were using it to their own advantage or not, that doesn't make them any less true.

Gaz's sudden character change is because now, because she's dead, she understands the world on a higher level. She is able to accept everything bad that has happened in her life and is now able to show what she really feels. She cares about her brother. She adopted his trench coat in this fic as a symbol of that. It was a part of him that she could always have around, just as Dib holds onto Gaz's necklace after she's killed. (Though in a first draft, the necklace did have a higher meaning, being that it had been modified into a tracking and spying device by the Irkens, which meant that the message in Gir's hard drive had really only been a red herring, but that was a little too complicated to work out. The same draft also had Gaz still been alive and working for Zim and the Irkens—her death was only a decoy to drive Dib further towards his goal and alienate him more from humanity, but I couldn't think of a real motive for her to be going about it, so I scrapped that idea. Anyhow…) Gaz still insults her brother after death and threatens him because that really is just her personality. However, her taunts are much more playful after her death because she realizes now that she no longer has to put up the front…a front that was never necessary for her to put up in the first place, but she was too blind to realize that during her life.

As to whether or not Dib's little vision while on the brink of suicide was real or not…that's up to the reader's interpretation as well. Yes, he could have given her necklace back to her spirit within the vision, but it also could have simply been lost in the fight. It showing up around her neck in the epilogue is really only because that takes place in his subconscious, and that is his vision of her—with the necklace. So you can interpret that however you will.

I'm glad that everyone enjoyed the second ending, even though I still like the first better. (I like being left with the feeling of "wait…what the hell just happened?" But then, I'm weird.) You're all lucky, then, cos I really wasn't even going to put the second ending up, but that scene with him and Gaz was just begging to be written, so I gave in.

Ummm…I think that's it. Looking back on all this, I realize that my views prolly seem very negative and cynical, but really, I just try to look at things from a realistic standpoint. Some people may see that as a bad thing. (shruggy) I can't help it either way.

But I'm gonna stop rambling, now. Thank you so much again to Kitsu Millions, kokono, Maran Zelde, ces Kirby, Psychosis, Dibsthe1, Goopy Goo, the mysterious " " (since that little mark won't show up on here for some reason ), spectacal, Senri, Only a Handful of Time, and The Fic Lord for all your wonderful encouragement and praise. You all rock the casba. Or something.

I'm part way though the second chapter of Goldfish Don't Bounce (which is proving to be much harder than originally anticipated, since I'm putting myself in Gir's head for that chapter) and am working on making sure that I have all of the plot points worked out for You Only Live Twice, because that one is pretty damned complicated, plot wise. The next part of that should be up within the next few days, though. I don't want to keep anyone hanging for too long, lest they forget me. :)

So, again and again, thank you, and hopefully you all will keep reading the random brain vomit that is my writing. (Nice mental image, no?)