Author's Note: Well, this is the first chapter of my first multiple chapter IZ fic. This fanfic will end with four chapters. Enjoy. Please be patient for the other three chapters.
Disclaimer: Invader Zim and everything related belongs to Jhonen Vasquez and Nickelodeon Studios.
And Still He Stood
(Gaz's point of view)
Chapter 1: In His Shoes
I never really meant to be a cruel person. While I accept responsibility for my own actions, I never meant any permanent damage to anyone. It was all a façade, my comfort zone; the reason I wanted to be feared was I didn't want to fear anything. I was tired of being paranoid. Yes, my brother has always been known as the paranoid one, but I was paranoid in the way that I was afraid to trust, while Dib was suspicious of everything, never taking anything at face value. Taking nothing at face value is good in most cases, but he was always thinking that every fleeting figure, every shadow, every hallucination was some kind of ghost or alien or Bigfoot or something. See, after our mom died years ago and our dad turned to his scientific studies nearly twenty four-seven, my brother and I had had different ways of dealing with it. I would stay inside all day playing videogames and eating junk food, and Dib grew interested in something called the "paranormal". He loved studying ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, and those sorts of things. I thought it was all nonsense, but I was proven wrong about the aliens part.
The thing is, one day there was this new kid in school. He had this green skin and no ears or nose that were visible, but still seemed to be able to hear and smell just fine. He called himself Zim. Dib jumped on the opportunity to prove once and for all that aliens were real and he wasn't crazy for believing in them. But he failed each time, partially because most people he knew had a one-track mind. Zim told everyone he just had a skin condition, and everyone at school was mad at my brother since they believed he was being insensitive. But both Dib and I have seen Zim without his disguise on before, and so I stand corrected.
Anyway, after our family fell apart at the seams, I was afraid that since I had lost Mom, and had, in a way, nearly lost Dad, something might happen that would make me lose my brother, too, especially since Dib was always sneaking around Zim's house spying on him and had had many close calls, since Zim planned to enslave all humans and tended to use violence whenever he felt it was needed. So, in order to attempt to emotionally detach myself from Dib so I wouldn't have to go through all the pain of losing a loved one again if anything happened to him, I started to pretend, and tried to make myself believe, that I didn't care about him at all. It became easy after a long while, and I was able to fool myself, but Dib had always had a knack for looking beyond the obvious. Besides, he had known the real me before.
After a long time of living like this, though, I began to waver back to my earlier way of thinking. I started putting myself in Dib's shoes, just like I had always been able to do, and I grew worried that I was "letting my guard down". I suppose the first instance in which I noticed myself reverting back to my old tendency of compassion took place after a particularly awful "incident" between my brother and me. So I guess I'll start there.
I was leaning over the bathtub one afternoon. Dib and I had just gotten home from school, and I was preparing to take my vengeance on something he had done to me on the way home. Something extremely minor, but I would exaggerate it when he annoyed me the slightest bit and would deal with it using the most horrible of "punishment".
I filled the tub up with almost scalding hot water, monitoring it until the amount was to my liking. I turned the water off and dipped one finger cautiously into it. It began to hurt, and I pulled my finger out and smiled. Perfect. Time for the last thing I needed. I strode out the door of the bathroom and to the living room.
Dib was sitting content on the couch as he watched his favorite show. "Mysterious Mysteries" it was called. I hated the fact that I could remember the name of it, but he'd had it on so many times before, and I couldn't forget the title even when I tried. I approached the sofa, grabbed my brother by the arm, and harshly yanked him off to the bathroom without even doing him the courtesy of providing an explanation for my inconsiderate behavior. I threw open the bathroom door and shoved him in, following behind and locking the two of us in. Dib, who had been knocked to the floor, got to his feet and gave me a confused look. But I wasn't going to explain it to him just yet. The reason why I was doing what I was about to do was as we had been walking home in the rain, Dib had splashed me with a puddle on the sidewalk. Not a mud puddle, not even a puddle lying next to mud. Just a plain water puddle in the middle of the sidewalk. I had been acting especially sour that day, and Dib was clearly trying to liven me up a bit, for he laughed right after he had done it and invited me to join in.
"C'mon, Gaz, splash me back!" he grinned from ear to ear. I only growled in a low tone, deciding he'd pay when we got home.
Now it was time. Now I was the one grinning from ear to ear. Dib sensed danger was imminent, and locked into defense mode, taking a step backward and lifting his arms in preparation to protect himself. Before he could make any move in his own defense, however, I grabbed him by his trenchcoat collar and turned him around to face the bathtub. He noticed the steam rising from the water, and the fact that the mirror above the sink was fogging up. As I took hold of his shoulders, I felt them tighten.
"Gaz…?" Dib asked, "You're not gonna…you won't, will you?"
I didn't answer. Instead I pushed him along by the shoulders until we reached the tub. I ignored the demand of "Let me go!" and forced him to his knees beside the bathtub. I got to my own knees as well, but right on top of him. Making sure I didn't leave his arms free, I leaned his top half over the side of the tub, his face just hovering over the water. Then, savoring the moment with a sick sense of satisfaction, I reached out and plunged Dib's head into the nearly scalding water. He jerked and struggled, but I maintained a firm restraint on him. I then grabbed hold of the lock of hair that was shaped like a scythe blade and pulled his head back up. Luckily for Dib, he had anticipated me enough to close his eyes and mouth tightly before he went under, but since his arms were pinned under him, the rest of his face wasn't so lucky. He shook water off of his head and turned his head around to face me with some difficulty, since I still had a grip on his hair near the scalp.
"Gaz, what are you doing?!"
"You know I don't like being splashed!" I screamed in his ear.
"I-I'm sorry!" he apologized, "I was just trying to-"
"I know what you were trying to do!" I submerged his head again and yanked it back up by the hair. Dib was fast; I had to give him that. He'd known when to close his eyes and mouth again.
"Stop trying to make me happy, Dib!" I yelled, "I just want you to leave me alone! When are you going to realize that?!"
"Gaz, I-" He cut off, seeing that I was about to dunk his head again. He took his previous precautions, and his eyes and mouth were shut yet again when I forced his head under for a final time and held it there for a moment. Then I brought it back up and got off of him, letting go of his hair to pull him up by the shoulders. I turned him around and jerked him towards me to emphasize what I had to say next.
"Don't ever let it happen again," I hissed at him. He gritted his teeth tiredly and angrily. For a moment I just stood there, then I shoved him backwards into the tub. I walked towards the door and unlocked and opened it, and then I turned back and did the only humane thing I had for Dib in weeks. I made sure that he came up before I left, and hadn't hit his head and passed out.
I saw his head and shoulders rise above the water. I couldn't believe I was glad he had avoided getting the water in his mouth and eyes again, but this strange feeling coursed through my chest when I saw his eyes. He gave me this pained and frustrated look, and his eyes asked a simple question that had haunted me for years: "Why?"
I suddenly felt like telling him I was sorry, but for some reason I shook the feeling off.
"Remember, Dib, the water can be hotter next time," was what I said instead. And as Dib lifted himself out of the tub, I decided I didn't want to think about this anymore, so I left the bathroom. It was getting towards dinnertime.
I entered the kitchen and went to examine the fridge for what Dad had left for dinner.
"Hello, kids!" a man's voice said from behind me. I turned to see the usual video screen hanging from a mechanical arm that extended from the ceiling. Professor Membrane, Dib's and my father, flickered into view on the monitor.
"There's tomato soup in the fridge if one of you could heat that up on the stove for the two of you," he instructed, "the cook time is on the can. I hope you both had a good day at school."
I didn't answer. I was more or less in a listless daze as I fished the can out of the refrigerator and opened it. I halfheartedly heated it on the stove and then divided it into two bowls. I didn't feel like going to the stairs to call up to Dib's room which was where I had seen him go as he finished drying off.
"Dib!" I shouted, "Dinner's ready!"
When he didn't answer, I yelled louder.
"Dib! You four-eyed dimwit, get down here!"
Finally, Dib's footsteps came down the stairs, and he appeared in the kitchen doorway. I nodded to his bowl, and he walked over to the counter and took it, though his eyes never left me. I fidgeted. There was a redness around his eyes that didn't seem to have come from the bathtub incident. Had he been…crying? I quickly redirected my attention to my soup and carried it into the dining room with Dib following me.
"I hope you both had a good day at school," the video screen said again, obviously on a film loop. I gritted my teeth, not only at the fact that Dad didn't take time away to at least talk to us live over the video screen, but also at the fact that he didn't really care whether we had a good day at school or not. I set my bowl down on the dining room table and sat down.
"What's wrong with you?" I asked as if Dib were pouting for no obvious reason.
Dib set his spoon down and gave me an agitated look. "I don't need to answer that," he said simply.
"I asked you a question, Dib," I said, opening one eye a little more than usual, "so I expect an answer."
Dib narrowed his eyes. "Gaz, what happened to you? You used to be a lot more considerate…"-his gaze dropped downwards-"and kind and…we were best friends…"
I hated it when he brought up the subject.
"I changed," I said, but I looked away from him, "and I don't regret it."
There was a painful silence between us. Then from behind, it came again.
"I hope you had a good day at school," the video screen said for the third time, and it was all I could do not to break it.
Things were quiet that evening. I spent practically all of it on my bed playing my Gameslave 2. There was nothing I loved to do more in the world, except for eating junk food. I played it so much, in fact, that I normally kept my eyes squinted out of habit from looking at the screen so long. Finally, I finished slaying the entire evil army of virtual pigs on the sixth level, saved the game, and turned it off. Kicking back, I looked out my window at the city beyond. Next door, a boy was claiming to his mother he was on a sleep hiatus. I smiled, but only on the inside, since I had almost forgotten how to do it on the outside. I looked over at my clock and, realizing it was late and I hadn't heard Dib moving around in his room, I decided to see if he was asleep.
I crept out of my room and into his. I never allowed him to enter my room, but always thought nothing of walking into his. The lights were turned off, and I had to open my eyes wider to see Dib lying in bed and apparently sleeping. I quietly moved to the side of the bed and only watched him for a moment. He was still dressed, and had only removed his shoes. Seeing his glasses were still on his face, I slowly reached for them, not sure why I wanted to help out, and lifted them off. I held the spectacles for a moment, and as if they were dangerous or something, I quickly set them on the nightstand and wrung my hands out. I started for the door, but stopped when I heard Dib whispering.
"What?" I whispered back, still facing the door.
"What?" I turned to face him and realized he hadn't sat up, and his eyes were still closed. He was talking in his sleep.
Don't go? Why was he…?
I shook it off as just a dream he was having and left for my own bed. But though I tried to fill my mind with only pleasant thoughts of high graphic video games, I couldn't completely forget what I heard my brother saying in his sleep. I didn't like it when he got me confused like this. I tried to forget the whole thing, but Dib was calling out for me in his sleep over and over again until I managed to get to sleep.
Author's Note: Well, I didn't realize I was going to finish this chapter already. I love reviews, but no flaming ones. Just praise, and constructive criticism if you find anything that can be improved upon, please.