One Shot
An Invader Zim fanfic
by J. Random Lurker.

In America, one child or teen is killed in a firearm-related accident or suicide every seven hours.


I had a nightmare last night. I don't usually remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me.

I dreamt that I shot Zim.

I don't know where I got the gun from- it's not like me to want to do something like that. Not even to Zim. That's so cheap, so completely cheap. I would never stoop so low.

I wouldn't, I swear.

I was standing over his broken body in a dark place I didn't recognize. Everything was red and black. Hot, so hot. Like a filthy swamp. A bog. No air. No breeze. Red heat. The gun was in my hand, still smoking. I could smell the iron tang of the gunpowder in the air, raspy on my tongue like I'd been sucking down metal filings. My ears rang from the shot, echoing down off the indistinct red skies. I was laughing, some stupid laugh, but tears ran down my cheeks in the darkness.

Zim shuddered underneath me, dying, his body jerking around into twisted, unnatural positions. His legs flailed and contorted. I felt an obscene desire to stand on him. I put a foot on his bloody chest to hold him down. He stared up at me, wouldn't look away, held me by some inner gravity. Laughed a broken trainwreck of a laugh. Then, I don't know how, he snapped his own neck. His head just jerked around suddenly and there was a horrible SNAP and... his eyes went blank and... that was it.

Silence. The body slowly stopped moving, sank down with a noise that only something dead can make.

He'd won. Even though I'd shot him, he'd still won.

The dream shifted. I was looking at myself from outside, like my soul had been pulled out of my body. I could see myself. See the blood and tears and grease all smeared together on my face.

Inside my eyes, behind cracked glass lenses, there was a monster. A horrible monster. A horrible monster that needed, DESERVED to die. I stumbled down and after staring at the body for a little while, touched the barrel of the gun to my own head.

I watched myself pull the trigger.

There was a hollow click, and a slight snap.

I didn't die.

I tried again. Click, snap. Nothing.

Click, snap, nothing.

Three more times.

In disgust, I looked down at Zim's body. I kicked him, he was soft, and his ribs collapsed like dough at the point of impact, covering my foot with a gelatinous substance. Furious, I tossed the gun aside in a rage.

It discharged when it hit the ground. I watched the bullet slam into my ear and decimate my brain and come out the other side in a smear of haloed blood and bone matter.

I woke up screaming and I don't think I stopped for at least ten minutes.

I screamed so loudly even DAD came to see what was wrong.

I'm not going to skool today.


Dad held me until I calmed down, and he didn't ask me any questions. Then he gave me a sedative. I begged him not to, that I didn't want to sleep again, EVER, but he didn't listen. I'm glad he didn't, now. I slept without trouble for several hours, and it helped. I feel calmer. More in control. I can think clearly, without the fear gnawing my brain.

What made me dream that horrible nightmare? Too much spicy pizza the night before, watching Cow Gets Eaten 2 with Gaz? More importantly, what did it MEAN? I try to look through my dream books, but none of them help at all. All this vague new age stuff- what was I thinking?

Lying in the bed, watching the day shift by quietly, is like being in a whole different world. So calm and untroubled. No aliens or horrible classmates. A few cars pass, deliveries being made. I read a little bit, but my usual books don't interest me at all, for some reason. Gaz had loaned me her backup Game Slave, to keep me company while she was at skool. I didn't expect that and I didn't really say thank you like I meant to.

A little after three, I make myself get up. My legs feel old and weak. I drag myself in my pj's across the room and get my phone and crawl back into bed with it and dial a number I had long since memorized. Sink back into the pillow and close my eyes and wait for the other end to pick up.

"Why weren't you in skool today, DIB?" Zim's voice. No greetings. Hey, nobody else ever calls him, as far as I know. I need to hear his voice, even if we just trade insults for a while. I need to know that it was just a bad dream. That I hadn't actually gone and killed someone, even if that someone was a stupid alien. I would never kill anybody. In the past, I know - I'd made a lot of stupid threats about dissecting him. But somehow that wasn't okay now. It just wasn't.

"I was sick." I lie. "Your horrible alien breath wouldn't have made me feel any better, so I stayed home today."

Zim snorts softly. "A likely story. I'm sure you're planning some new way to destroy me."

If you only knew. I didn't mean to say it out loud, but it must have slipped out anyway, because Zim absolutely flies off the handle. I listen to his deranged rantings and feed him enough lines to keep him mad and yelling for a while. The phone grows hot against my head from where my ear presses to it. I don't really pay any attention to what he says, just take some random comfort from the fact he's still saying it.

I can still see the look in his eyes, just before he...

"I might not be in skool again tomorrow, either, Zim." I tell him then, when he pauses to catch his breath. Not sure why I say that. I know I'll have to go. You can get out of one day for a really bad dream that scares the hell out of you and makes you question your sanity, but TWO is beyond providence. As it is I'm pretty sure Ms. Bitters is gonna roast me on a spit for missing even one day.

"Oh, you'll go. Or I'll come and drag you out of your sleeping-chamber myself. I want you where I can see you, human. ESPECIALLY during the days."

I smile, just a little, and settle back in the pillow. Close my eyes and exhale. "You wouldn't dare. All the germs. I might sneeze on you and infect you with a hideous disease!"

"You ARE a hideous disease, dirtmonkey. One that should be eradicated. But I fear no mere Earthling snot."

"Whatever, Zim. Just wanted to let you know I'm NOT backing down. I'm just... uhm. Tired. Yeah."

Zim makes a strange sound on the other end of the phone. "Your voice disturbs me. I'm coming over there."

"What? No, no you're NOT! I'm SICK, Zim. I'm ... really sick. You can't!"

The line's already dead before I can finish talking. I stare at the phone in my hand.

It looks a little like a gun.

Great. Just great.


Unlike Zim, I don't have any house defenses to flip on to block his entrance. I'm still feeling pretty off-center. So I decide, what the heck. I'll just go down there in my pajamas and having not showered all day and my 'horrible stench' will probably drive him off faster than any stupid computer security system ever would.


I hear noises downstairs, Gaz yelling she's home. Good. I slide back the covers and pull on a robe, take her Game Slave with me as I leave the bedroom. We pass by in the hall, and I hand the toy back to her. She looks at me for a second and says softly, "If you messed up my saved games, Dib..." The threat of doom lingers in her tone.

I shake my head and give her a weak smile. "Zim's coming over." Figure I should warn her at least. No idea what's going through Zim's mind that would make him want to come over here.

She grimaces, eyeballing me. "Aren't you going to get DRESSED at least?"

I shake my head. "Nah. Hoping he'll get the hint and go away faster if I don't."

She thinks about this. "That's stupid."


I open the door when I hear the Voot Cruiser's distinctive whining engine through the wall - yeah, it's that loud- and peer outside to watch it land. Zim hopes out and marches up the short walk to the house like he's got a pole up his back, like a parody of a goosestepping Nazi. His jaw juts out, his best 'I'm annoyed' expression. Great, just what I really needed, a pissed-off Zim spoiling for trouble. I'm SO not in the mood for this today.

I start to say as much, but that's when he jumps me. Literally. Throws himself through the open door and gets his arm under my throat and the next thing I know I'm slammed up against the wall and he's glowering at me and grinning and there's something cold and hard and square being jammed into my ribcage.

It takes me a hundred years to make my eyes look down.

It's a gun.

Not even an alien gun. Just a regular human-variety one.

I'm pretty sure I stop breathing.

"Get that thing away from me, Zim." I feel like it's the hardest sentence I've ever had to form in my life. I don't know how it comes out of my mouth.

He quirks an eye at me. Grinds the muzzle into my side a bit more. "Why?"

I'm in hell. I want to scream. My head is spinning crazy like a merry go round where all the horses keep slamming into each other. I swim through soup in my brain and stare at him. "Because I might use it."

His false eyes fix on me. "You make no sense. There's something wrong with your brains, Earthboy. I knew it. I could hear it on the phone." He scowls. "I know you're up to SOMETHING. I came to find out what it was." His false eyes scan the hall and he pulls his arm back from my neck, letting me breathe clearly again- but doesn't put the gun away. He peels me off the wall and locks a hand on my arm and slips in close behind me to rest the gun against the back of my neck. "Your room. Now." A little shove to get me moving. Just like in a hundred bad movies.

What am I going to do, argue? Not while he's got that thing pointing at me.

I somehow find the connection between my brain and my legs and make them move the way he wants me to. I want to yell for Gaz, but I can't risk her getting hurt if Zim loses it.

This is rapidly degenerating into the worst day of my life.


He shoves me again- both hands, pushing me into my room, and I almost trip and fall over my own feet. I catch myself and whip around and glare at him. I want to scream at him- get out of my room, get out of my house, for that matter, get off my PLANET!- but the gun keeps me quiet. I rub my arms and feel horribly naked and vulnerable. He's in my ROOM. My one sanctuary.

He makes a casual, offhand gesture with the gun, telling me I should sit down somewhere now. I stagger over to the edge of the bed. Again, it's just like a movie. A sick part of me wonders if that's where he got the idea. One too many showings of late-night gangster movies on TV.

He paces around the room, eyeing things. Looking at my posters, looking at the junk on my shelves. The toys and bits of unfinished computer hardware; I'm in the middle of building a second PC. He pokes through the drawers of my desk, prods at things and frowns at things. He looks at one of my star-posters and chuckles. Peeks in my closet and scowls at my clothes, pushing them around on the hangers to look behind them. I suppose he thinks he's being smart. Checking my room for hidden devices. He hasn't quite yet figured out I'm only about two thirds as paranoid as he is, and that I don't like the idea of having to disarm my own room before I walk into it. It's all really idle and random and surreal. He can't be here doing this. Holding me at gunpoint while he goes through my crap like he has a right to. Sifting through my LIFE, through the one place that is the utmost expression of ME. This can't possibly be happening.

He seems to be satisfied the walls aren't hiding anything brilliant, and turns his attention back on me. Suddenly I really wish I had more stuff to keep him occupied when the gun swings back my way. "I ran a remote bio-scan while we were on the phone. You're NOT sick. You were lying to me. What are you PLANNING, human?"

I find myself praying Dad'll walk by or Gaz will hear us and poke her head in. I want that so much. At the same time, I pray that nobody moves in the house until Zim leaves. I close my eyes. I try to concentrate on how weary I am until it shines out of me. Calculated show of submission. Maybe that'll placate him. "I'm really, really tired, Zim. Okay? I'm -sick-. I'm not physically sick but I'm -tired- and I really couldn't deal with you or skool today." I realize I sound incredibly bitter.

Probably why it doesn't work. He sweeps over, too close. Screams in my face. "You LIE! You're HIDING something!" He shoves the pistol to my head. "You WILL tell me what you're hiding."

I'm getting angry and trying so hard not to show it, but this is too much. I can't take much more of it. Before I can stop myself my hand's moved up and I'm pushing the gun away and I'm -screaming-, "I had a stinking NIGHTMARE, okay? You want to know what I'm hiding? Man, I wish I could SHOW you what... no, I WILL show you! YEAH!" I don't know where the strength comes from but all at once I've pushed him back and knocked the gun out of his hand and it's in MINE, hot and heavy and darkly shining and so real, the most real thing in this whole stupid situation, more real than either of us, more alien and older than either of us too.

I watch fear opening up in his eyes and it's beautiful. Utterly beautiful. I knock him into the wall against the Mars poster and something starts singing in me, a gleeful song of pure rage and hate in my blood that makes my head spin with power. God help me, I could do it. I could do it! I could make that dream come true.

God, help me...

"I dreamed that I shot you." I say quietly. "I dreamed that I shot you, and then I also got my brain blown out by a gun just like this. We both died. That's what I was HIDING, Zim. That's why I didn't come to skool today. I didn't want to see this HAPPEN. One stupid day, that's what I wanted. A stupid day away from you to get my head back on straight so that this could NEVER HAPPEN, BUT YOU BROUGHT IT TO ME! I'm NOT a killer but YOU MAKE ME WANT TO START SOMETIMES!"

It's my turn to be the bastard now. My blood screams for me to kill him. I crouch over Zim and fit the gun real neat under his chin. I'm shaking. Zim is shaking too. "Why did you bring this stupid thing into this?" I hiss."What were you thinking? Do you know what this can DO to you?"

Sweat drips down his face. My thumb slips around the edge of the gun. I've never handled one before, but.. heh. I watch a lot of movies too.

"Dib." He just says the one word. My name. Looks up at me. He's afraid and I hate myself for loving every second of it. I reach out with my free hand and tug at the edges of his contact lenses. I want to see his real eyes right now. The lenses come off slowly, leaving an orange sticky residue clinging to my fingers. He flinches. I toss them aside and sweep off the silly wig, baring the top of his rounded green head and his thick dark antennae. I want to see him as he really is. I want to see -us- as we really are. Raw and ugly and hating each other to death. No disguises. Nothing between us.

Except this stupid gun.

He chokes on his own terror. I can see his mind racing; I can see straight through him. "I just. I didn't know...I just thought you were...I just wanted to know if you were... and I thought..."

It hits me like lightning. Like a bullet through the head. He was -worried- about me. Actually worried, as much as he could be. And he had no way to express it except to barge over here and try to scare the hell out of me. He thought there was something WRONG with me. He even said so. Now I wonder if there is.

"Stupid alien." I start to cry, and I can't stop myself. The uglyness in me, so humid and swollen, bursts like an exploding zit hit with Acne Blast. It deflates, leaving me hollow and weak. My hands waver.

With a very careful slow series of motions Zim moves his hand up and I let him curl his fingers around the gun and tug it out of my hand. I don't know why I let him do it. He'll kill me. I know he will, now. I see his eyes swelling with wanting to. I've scared him too much and hurt his pride too much for him to be able to feel like he can just back off. I can't stop crying. I can't see all that well.

He puts the gun to my left temple and looks at me and all I can see is wavering heat-mirage red. His eyes. Me reflected in them. Hot, humid red. The color of fresh angry blood. The color of the world of death in my dream.

I close my eyes.

He pulls the trigger.




We both exhale at once.

Zim looks at me with infinite sadness and amusement and hatred all wrapped up at once. "Jammed." He notes it as casually as you might talk about the weather. He quirks his head at the gun and shrugs slightly. His flat long mouth puckers up sour. Then he tosses the horrible thing at the floor.

And without even thinking about it, I whip around and shove him off to the side and out of the way because I remember how the nightmare ends, and the gun flares up somehow in a nasty crackle of light and thunder, as if the gods themselves were pissed at our cheating at this death-game and had decided to make things go their way after all and the bullet flies fast and

through me

it hurts

oh god



The epilogue to all this is that I'm still here to talk about it.

The shot went into my back but by some unbelievable providence it grazed my lung and just passed through the meats of me. I was lucky. So far beyond lucky. I guess someone up there still likes me a little bit. Of course, if they really liked me, I wouldn't have gotten shot in the first place, but I'm still breathing, so I'm not complaining too much. Thank you, God.

Right now I'm in a corner in Dad's lab, a sort of makeshift hospital room in a quiet corner. They moved me here to protect me. Nobody wanted to leave me alone with Zim after the shooting. The shooting. God, that's weird to say. To even think about. Dad says he thinks I should be okay to go home in another few days though. There's a curtain, but I can hear Dad's voice and see the shadow of him moving around working on stuff and it helps me feel safe. He looks in every couple of hours just for a minute or two to see if I'm okay.

Kinda makes me wish I'd gotten shot a lot sooner. I'm getting so much attention from Gaz and Dad it's making my head spin. Gaz and I have been talking through our camera watches. She says they're still trying to get the blood out of my carpet. She said she had to burn a couple of posters, too. I told her it was okay, I probably needed to change some stuff around in there anyway. She says that the kids at skool think I tried to kill myself and she's already had to 'correct' that impression on several people. Now the word's spreading about what really happened.

I'm afraid to ask her about Zim. She doesn't say anything about whether he's still going to skool or not, and she won't tell me what happened after I passed out from the wound.

All I know is that she found me, she came running in after she heard the shot, and called Dad in. And Zim was there, without any disguise, covered in my blood.

Sometimes I wonder if I really want to know where Zim is now.

I wonder if he's okay.

I wonder if Dad's got him in the room on the other side of this curtain.

I wonder.


A/N: I had always wondered why there were so many fanfics with the motif of Dib and Zim shooting each other. Now I know. God, I wish I didn't. Originally written 2/4/03.