Written by Zelda

Part Three

                The door to Zim's base/house creaked open as soon as Dib so much as pushed on it. Bathed in the warm glow of the TV, GIR sat in the middle of the floor, surrounded by a pile of Ice Sucky and Fizz Wizz cups that was nearly as tall as himself. The robot was currently downing three of the drinks at once, all of different flavors.

                "MASTER'S HOME!" GIR leapt to his feet with glee. "And he brought home an earth-pig too!"

                "GIR?" It was hard for Dib to recognize the robot in his coating of sugar slush.

                "Thaaaaatttt'sss meeee!" GIR cheered, and then promptly raced off into the kitchen, leaving melting slushie footprints in his wake.

                Dib quirked an eyebrow, and then glanced to the Irken still leaning entirely on him for support. Zim hadn't said a thing since the teleporter had left them in front of Dib's house. He'd opted for bringing the alien back to his base, although he wasn't exactly sure what to do, now that he was here. Awkwardly tripping over the plastic and wax-lined drink cups, Dib dragged Zim to his couch, and sat him down.

                The alien blinked dully for a moment, before gravity seemed to take him slumping down onto an arm of the couch.

                "Awww, master is sleeeeepy." GIR cooed, reappearing at Dib's side with something bundled in his arms. The robot flapped it open to reveal a Scary Monkey blanket, which he spread over Zim. "Take good care of him, monkey!"

                Dib reached under the blanket to pull his trenchcoat back, and inspected it momentarily. Yuck. He looped it in one arm, and stood back.

                Zim was simply staring at him through those same half-lidded eyes. He was clearly exhausted, although a little color was coming back into his skin.

                Had Dib been too late? Had he waited too long, he asked himself, and now there was no way to bring the Irken back? Although he didn't exactly feel bad about that possibility, he didn't feel entirely victorious either.

                Zim reached a frail claw up to pull the blanket closer, and balled himself up in it, eyes sliding closed. His antennae slid from his head and drooped over the side of the couch.

                Dib screwed up an eye. Asleep? Well… now what did he do? He could hear GIR bouncing around in the kitchen, the TV buzzing in the background. Dib shifted from one foot to another for a moment, before adjusting the trenchcoat on his arm. Without a word, he turned, walked to the front door, and closed it behind him.

It was an honest surprise to see the Irken in skool, the very next morning. He marched in silently, handed Mrs. Bitters a note, then proceeded back to his desk and sat. Dib was too shocked to say much of anything, but spent the entire morning with his concentration fixed on the alien. Zim seemed not to notice. He still seemed a little pale and a little tired, but the scars and stitches were all completely gone. Well… that was kind of hard to determine, the alien's clothes covered up most of where they had previously been. He stared straight ahead all morning, not really listening to Ms. Bitters, and not casting so much as a glance at Dib. Finally, the lunch bell rang, and everyone exited class. Zim didn't even take a look back to notice Dib spying on him as he entered the boy's bathroom. Hah, perfect place to corner him and find out what was going on! The boy gave Zim several seconds to enter in unsuspecting peace, and to let kids clear out from the hall, on their way to the cafeteria. Once he was sure that the coast was clear, Dib tiptoed up to the door, and creaked it open, slipping in. The bathroom, although poorly lit and nearly falling apart, seemed empty. Except for Zim of course… where was he? Dib finally caught sight of the Irken on the far side of the room, leaning against a sink and trying to see himself in a grimy mirror. He was peeking beneath one of his contacts. Dib ambled rather casually up to the first sink in the row, and smirked. "Back in skool already Zim?" he sneered. "Afraid Ms. Bitters would give up some secret on how to conquer the world, and you'd miss it?"

                Zim hadn't noticed Dib sneak in, and recoiled, snapping his contact back in place and hissing as he backed to the wall. "Nothing defeats the will and strength of the Irken elite, stinkbeast!… And did Mrs. Bitters reveal such a thing?"

                "Of course not, you idiot." Dib rolled his eyes.

                Zim grumbled and pushed himself away from the wall. He ended up having to reach out and pull on the sink to get him standing straight again.

                It was something that Dib took great notice of. So the Irken wasn't as healthy as he outwardly appeared. Maybe the disguise had fooled him. His skin looked to be a normal color though. In all of his analysis, Dib's thoughts rang with opportunity. This was the perfect time to take the alien down, to get him captured and squirming and right where he wanted--- oh… wait… he had just done that. And he'd actually freed Zim from such a situation. Now why would be go and do a thing like that?

                Zim let out an impatient frown to the human who simply seemed to be standing around before him, lost in his own thoughts. "What do you want with me, Dib-worm?" he snarled. "Come back for more of my guts, or my blood? Or perhaps you'd like to slice me open again and see if my body can take a few more stitches, hm?"

                Zim's words were laced with venom, that was normal. But Dib thought there was something more to it, something underneath, hidden in Zim's tone. Was it exasperation, exhaustion? Maybe even a hint of defeat? Such things seemed entirely unfamiliar in association with the Irken. His answer, after a pause, was a simple "No."

                "Then what are you here for, Dib? If not for me, then I'll leave you to your filthy human business."

                Dib snorted reflexively with that one. Hmm, how to answer this time? "Just, well… wanted to see how you were doing."

                "Like you'd care." Zim bit back quickly.

                "You know." Dib folded his arms. "I did rescue you from that place Zim. Sure, I put you there in the first place, but you asked me for help and I listened. I'm not entirely sure why."

                Zim lowered his shoulders fractionally, outwardly unwilling to admit and inwardly conflicted over just what he'd be admitting to. "And I owe you thanks?" he asked skeptically. "For having that—that- MAN slice me six ways 'till Sunday and nearly—" Zim stopped short here. He would not admit to Dib that the incident had indeed nearly cost him his life. That Dib had come close to winning. He would never. Zim forced himself to calm, and to collect his thoughts. "You know that I won't forgive this, Dib." His voice was low and quiet, containing none of the outward screaming threat that it usually did with a phrase like that. Brutal honestly broiled in his frame.

                Dib blinked for a moment. "…I guess… I can't really expect you to." he nodded. "But by the same token, you know that I won't apologize." Of course he wouldn't apologize! Some…thing in his conscience had pulled him around and made him drag Zim out of what Dib had wanted for him all along. And the Swollen Eyeball, with all of its bureaucracy, would probably never bother following up on investigating him, with the little information they had bothered to take from Dib. What a waste.

                Zim growled. "Why am I not surprised? Then this changes nothing between us, human. I advise you to enjoy what delusional moments you may have had about defeating me. It will never happen. In the name of the armada, you'll never have that again."

                Dib raised an eyebrow, biting back the sneer in his voice. "Again?"

                Zim hissed at him. "Begone, stinkbeast. You'd be wise not to invoke my all-destroying wrath. Or when I heal, you'll be washing your own blood out of your trenchcoat."

                Dib made the decision that provoking the alien wasn't worth it at this point. He turned on his heels with a victorious little smirk, and pushed his way out into the hall. It was, after all, corn and mayonnaise day, he should try to make the most of it.

The End