"Happy birthday, Dib," Mara smiled as she kissed his head gently. Dib wrapped his arms around her tightly, thanking her for the small, lovely green cake she had made that afternoon for the occasion. Together they sat at the table in Dib's quiet, empty house, a few candles lit; the television in the living room was switched off. Gaz was on a date with some boy she'd met at a gaming convention; Professor Membrane was in Germany for a series of science meetings.

They had the house to themselves, and they could have done anything now that Dib was eighteen, legal and an adult. But the sadness of events eight years ago still lingered in their hearts, weighing them down. They ate their cake (Mara had slowly developed immunities against several human foods) in silence, but the torment in Dib's heart roared until he no longer could contain it, and so he said what needed to be said:

"Mara, it's been eight years. Is…you said Miyuki would come for us. Does that mean she's on her way?" Mara lowered her fork and placed it on the table with a clink, then looked at her love with those giant, beautiful Irken eyes.

"I did. Miyuki did not specify when during the eighth year she would arrive for us, so I do not know. It could be tonight, tomorrow or the end of the year. I don't know." Dib looked back down at his cake, then said,

"Mara, are you ready to go back?" The question caught her off-guard.

""What do you mean?"

"Like, are you happy here? Did you ever feel a connection while you were here, on Earth, among humans?" Mara was silent for a moment, contemplating the questions, all to aware of Dib's eyes watching her. Finally, she answered,

"I want to go home just as badly as you do. I want her to come get us as soon as possible, I want to see Chai, and I want to visit the bur—" She stopped herself. She couldn't say it, not yet. Dib read her face and whispered,

"The burial site. I know. I want to visit them too. I…I miss Zim so much, Mara. He and I had to be enemies because of the Tallest, when we could have been best friends. We all lost him too soon."

"Yes," Mara sighed. She slipped her hand over his, squeezing gently to tell him it was okay, what happened was done and there was no way to reverse the past. It didn't make it any easier, though.

That night, after they'd cleaned up the kitchen from the cakey mess they'd made, Dib and Mara cuddled up in front of a sci-fi flick, holding each other under a heavy blanket and drifting off to sleep. The past years had been the repetitive ho-hum of human existence, going to skool, coming home, doing nothing, going to bed, getting up and starting the cycle over and over until Dib had finally finished Hi-Skool. He never applied to college, surviving life under the promise of Miyuki's glorious return to them, and now they merely had to wait.

Mara fell asleep in Dib's arms, but he remained awake, like a child does when awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. The movie ended moments later, and went to commercial when the television was suddenly flooded with static. A deep rumble outside grabbed Dib's attention, and he immediately removed himself from the couch to run to the door and see what he hoped to see.

The blue spacecraft landed on the lawn, its entrance opening up fluidly with a bright light flooding that half of the neighborhood. No one else stirred from their blissful, ignorant slumber.

Dib dropped to his knees, tears of joy streaming from his face as a lovely, graceful little Irken slowly guided a taller, older figure down the slope of the little ship's dock. As they grew closer, Dib recognized them as Chai and Queen Miyuki, both wearing tired smiles and extending their hands. Dib ran inside to shake Mara awake, then back to the door to welcome their guests.

"Hello, Dib," Miyuki smiled at her adopted child, "Are you and Mara ready to go home tonight?"

Dib threw his arms around her and whispered happily,

"Yes, mother. Yes, we are."



I want to thank everyone who read and reviewed "I've Been Harboring a Secret". I had a really fun time writing this, even if it did take several years to complete. Thank you all for the encouraging words, I really needed them to continue this. See you in another story!