Christmas Without You

She had killed someone. Shot him through the heart, right before Zim slit his throat. It did not bother her much, when at all. She felt better, much better. The devastation that their father's death brought them was not so heavy, it didn't seem like the end of the world. There was light beyond that. And as she had sat there beside his grave, she felt like playing the new Vampire Slaughter that came out on one of the television consoles. She found it interesting that it had a multi-player feature. She was pretty sure that there was someone who would play it with her. She didn't dread going home either.

But there were places she would rather be.

"No. Fucking. Way." Gaz looked up at him. Dib frowned.

"Watch your mouth," he told her.

"Bill?" she mouthed at him. An amused smile came to his face, which made Gaz glare at him. "But he's practically insane!"

"He'll barely be around!" Dib shrugged, apparently believing that made it better. "I think," he added.

"Wouldn't they not let him, because of that?" she asked, irritably shoving his magazines off of the tabletop. Dib sighed as he bent over to retrieve them. She didn't know why she ever worried about his health, Dib was too stubborn to die. He was even too stubborn to stay in bed even though the doctor was only allowing him to stay home only if he took it easy.

"Gaz, some people are stupid!" Dib grinned again, as if it were really funny to have to remind her about it. "Like the justice system will even notice!"

"I know," she narrowed her eyes at him, "But... Bill? He better not bother me with your stupid paranormal."

"I already talked to him about it," Dib assured her, going into the kitchen and taking his magazines with him. Gaz looked around at the living room, ignoring her show which just came on. She decided she had never really liked the decor. The bookshelves were stuffed with things that neither Dib or she had heard of. Lying open on a lamp stand was a book on optometry. Gaz flipped through the pages, wondering when Dad had started reading it. She blinked as the credit music came from the television. She had not noticed the time go by. Still holding the book, she turned the T.V. off with the remote. Footsteps behind her caused her to snap the book shut.

"Dad..." Gaz sighed, turning around. She froze at the sight of Dib, the tray in his hands quivering as if it had just been shot stiff. They both stared at each other.

"We're-" Dib started, a bit hesitantly, "We're never going to get over this... are we?"

Gaz looked away, that free, new feeling short-lived.

"I didn't think so," Dib sighed, setting the tray down on the side table. Gaz didn't look at him, feeling rather stupid and embarrassed. She wondered how he felt, being mistaken for Dad.

Maybe like he was back at those stupid labs, Gaz cursed herself, With those horrible scientists who think he can just turn into Dad for them.

The silence lingered until Gaz turned away from him, settling down on the couch. She could feel his gaze rove over her before the couch moved as he sat down beside her. She felt her temper rise, wanting this silence to last, but he didn't say anything. It left her drained and feeling alone with her emotions.

She felt better, but did better have to mean empty? What was the best way to cope? How much could she be allowed, how much should she give? It was confusing. Only a week ago it didn't matter that much at all. Only a week. It seemed like so much longer from this side of it.

"What're we going to do?"

He didn't answer. Gaz let her eyes wander over towards him just to see his eyes tightly shut, hand propping up his head as if he could block everything out. The feeling she got was strange. She wanted Dib to be strong again, she wanted to have the opportunity to lean on him, the opportunity she knew she'd never take.

"Mysterious Mysteries is going to be on," she mentioned, "You going to watch it?"

He nodded, eyes still shut. Gaz turned on the television and they both sat there not paying attention to anything until the both of them fell asleep.

Sleep was not filled with nightmares, it wasn't filled with anything.

"Gaz?"

She opened her eyes, to find herself lying on the couch, head on Dib's shoulder. He straightened himself up, which was what caused her to wake up. He did not look at her.

"Could you help me upstairs?" he looked rather awkward asking it. She sat up, without much thought.

"To your room?" she asked him. He shook his head.

"To... Dad's room."

She looked at the staircase, then back to Dib. Her first idea was to say no. Never to go in there.

What are we going to do?

Find a way to deal with loosing Dad... without him.

Gaz nodded and stood up. He did the same with a little more effort and they both made there way to the stairs. She led him to Dad's room. The closer they got, the more reluctant both of them seemed to be to get closer. Dib finally pulled them both in front of the forbidden territory. She couldn't do much but stare at the door, eyes slowly drifting towards the floor. Dib reached forward and put his hand on the doorknob. After seeming to have to back himself up mentally, he opened the door.

There was not much in the room, the majority consisting of a thin layer of dust that coated all surfaces. A closet door was on the opposite side of the room and a small bookshelf next to it. A bed was stashed in the corner next to a small window. The last wall only had a small bureau with a mirror mounted above it. A few articles were placed accordingly on the surface.

Gaz went there, drawn by photographs. The only photos in the house were either of Dad, or of Dib's paranormal pictures. To see an actual other person in one drew out her curiosity. She realized with a start it was her mother.

I have her hair, she recalled with surprise, lifting the picture up and looking at the woman she had not seen for years. She was smiling as she was looking up at the camera, wearing torn jeans and a long, tight, sleeveless shirt. Gaz set the picture back down and looked at the next, which was of both of her parents. Mom was trying to pull down Dad's collar as she kissed his cheek, Dad was only holding her against him and didn't seem to be resisting. Gaz swallowed, trying to recall one time in her memory when they were together. It was useless, it was too long ago and too much was gone.

There was one last picture, framed and all, set on the surface.

"Dib," Gaz called softly, thumb smoothing across the glass as she looked at what must have been the single picture of all three of them in existence. Dust was cleared off from all of their faces as it collected in her fingerprint. A small exhale from over her shoulder moved her hair into her face. Gaz's eyes looked up at the mirror in front of them and wondered what happened to the selfish children in the picture.

"Let's take them downstairs," Dib suggested, his voice nearly choked. Gaz nodded, her tears contained behind her eyelids. She wasn't looking forward to the next Wednesday without him. Dib seemed to feel the same.

Merry Christmas Dad.

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December 24th

Who thought being alive now would make me think a lot more then I have ever before. I feel like I'm fifty, not nearly eighteen. I regret goading Gaz as much as I used to in the past, even more then when she made me pay for it through the nose. I came across my old journal file. It has so many notes from my obsession with Zim, that I don't think that I'll ever get rid of it. But I can add a few words just to get them off my chest. There are people I can talk to now, but there are some things you can never say.

It has been ten days since Dad's death. I don't know whether to think it was just yesterday or ten years ago. It's been hard to keep track of things in my head. I don't remember if I had just done it or not. It's times like that when I'm glad Gaz and I get along now. I don't know what I'd do without her. She has always been strong, but I don't think I've appreciated it that much before. And with my current physical limitations, which I know are my fault, it's almost scary having her help me without even complaining about it. She's going to be taking an application for some video game creator position from a college in town. Everything is being taken care of, work, home, us... and it won't be that much longer before we'll have everything settled. We're taking a break, though we won't have a tree up for Christmas. I went out with Bill the other day to try and get a Christmas present for Gaz. Still can't find anything. Have to think of something new, something she doesn't have. Something she actually wants.

It will just be the two of us for Christmas. I don't know how we're going to deal with it. We still aren't that comfortable just talking normally and I have no clue what to say to her. We've been talking about Dad, but there are times when it hurts too much to even think about him. There isn't a single Christmas in my mind when he wasn't here. It was the day Dad was always home. I think someday it won't hurt so much, but I'll never be over this. Never is a long time to think about it.

There's also this spot in my mind which can't help but worry about him, as stupid as it sounds. I'm still waiting for my coat, but I have too much to do without stopping by and seeing whether he got home. Never thought I would care about Zim, but he's the friend that I never had and that will always treat me the same. He's just one more thing I know can change. I'm okay with that. And what surprises me, is that I think Gaz thinks so too.

-

Dib went down the stairs slowly, the best he could do at the moment. He couldn't wait to be able to run again, it was too big of a part in his usual routine to not miss. When Zim showed up, he wanted to be able to give an alien a run for his money. Not that would matter much, finding out Zim printed out his own money somewhere in his base.

Then, he heard a noise that made him stop. Turning the corner, he assured himself what it was.

Gaz and another girl were sitting on the couch, pressing the buttons on their controllers as they stared at the game on the screen.

"Who is this?" Dib asked Gaz, pointing at the darker girl. The girl clicked her tongue and Gaz narrowed her eyes sideways at Dib, most likely berating him for interrupting their game time.

"This is Sandra," she gestured with a jerk of her head, "A friend from GrafixGames."

"Friend...?" Dib asked incredulously, barely able to wrap his mind around it. Despite his sudden amazement, he felt happy for her. A friend... she needed that, just as much as he did.

"She's spending the night," Gaz added, setting down her controller after reaching a safe point.

"I thought tonight was family night," Dib reminded her, wondering what all could be going through her head.

"She isn't spending Christmas with anyone else," Gaz shrugged, looking up at him, "So I invited her to stay with us."

"Yo," Sandra set down hers as well and gave a short wave to Dib. He smiled weakly and waved back before turning back to Gaz.

"Without telling me?" he asked her.

"I'm sorry I have a life without asking you," she grumbled, something on the screen catching both of the girls' attentions and causing them both to grab their controllers. "Look," she said, though starting up the next level, "Next time, I'll be sure to tell you, 'kay?"

Dib just smiled as he watched both Gaz and Sandra stare intently at the screen.

"Thanks Gaz."

She absently shrugged again, but a bit of a smile came to her face as she and Sandra started discussing tactics to beat the next boss. Dib left them to themselves and went into the kitchen. It was colder in there because a window was open. Dib went over to close it but stopped. A mug of hot chocolate was set there, steam rising to the outside.

He waited for a while, but left as the chocolate cooled.

Zim would show... wouldn't he?

He saw Gaz's face as she saw the still-full mug of chocolate now cold and watched as she made another.

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"Just wake up," Gaz threw a pillow at Sandra, who used some interesting curse words as she covered her face with the blanket, sitting up under the wraps. "Do you always sleep so late?"

"I make my own schedule," Sandra grumbled. "You stayed up late too."

"Uh-huh," Gaz responded, reaching for her drawers and opening them, looking for something to wear.

"Christmas isn't my favourite day," Sandra got up, stretching. Gaz paused.

Oh yeah... it's Christmas. I forgot.

She went down the stairs quickly, reaching the cold kitchen. Gaz went to the window immediately. It was still full.

He hadn't come.

"Christmas is horrible," Gaz spat at the ground, leaving the mug there.

She hated herself to be so bothered over this. She hated it that she wanted Zim to be there.

"Merry Christmas Gaz," Dib said, handing her a box. She looked at him for a moment before taking it.

"I... didn't get you anything," she realized. She had been dreading Christmas so much, she hadn't thought about it.

"That's okay, I'll take a rain check," Dib waved it off, one sleeve on the sweater he was wearing folding over his hand. "Now open it!"

She opened it, feeling a bit guilty, and revealed the box containing the Vampire Slaughter game.

"I thought you and Sandra could play it today," Dib shrugged.

"What will you do?" Gaz questioned him.

"Watch," he responded. "I really don't want to do anything today." Gaz would have agreed, if it had been any other day. But it was Christmas and she didn't know what to do, let alone what not to. So she settled for calling Sandra down and the three of them had breakfast as they started up her new game.

"What time is it?" Gaz asked suddenly. Sandra frowned beside her as the vampires nearly bit her, only to be hit by sunlight.

"Four... thirty eight," she responded. "What's for lunch?"

"More like an early dinner. Dib?" Gaz looked over her shoulder to see nothing. The book he was reading was sitting on the chair he had occupied. "Dib?"

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Dib had never bothered cooking before. He never had the time before, just managing to grab something like toast before running out the door, to skool or after something else. He never learned from his father, because he wasn't home to actually cook. Always going out to eat, always grabbing something that did not require time. Now he was staring at everything and thinking how much it looked like fixing Thanksgiving dinner. Not that he knew from experience.

Straight in he realized how much he did not like cooking things and wouldn't try something as extravagant so soon again. Afraid of burning something, he burnt his own finger. Holding back a curse, he went to the sink.

To look through the window.

Inhuman eyes stared back at him.

"Zim?" Dib asked, unable to say anything else.

Zim surprisingly looked a bit sheepish as his eyes went down to the snow. His arms went up and Dib's trench coat was shoved in his face.

"I promised to return it," Zim told him shortly. "You- you didn't believe Zim would come!"

"I did too!" Dib snapped, wiping off the water from the bottom of the coat that got into the running water. "I just wasn't expecting you to appear at the window!"

"Zim scared you!" a smirk appeared on Zim's face.

"Startled!" Dib shot back, turning the water off. "Why are you standing outside the window anyways?"

"It was open," Zim responded, next holding up the mug that had been set there. "What is this supposed to be?"

"Hot chocolate."

"Doesn't feel that hot to me," Zim said, confused. Before Dib could say anything else, Zim drank some. Immediately he started coughing. "Hot chocolate! There's nothing chocolate or hot about it! It's horrible!"

"That's because it's been sitting out for a while," Dib laughed. Zim glared at him.

"Who would just leave it out here?" Zim demanded.

"Gaz, who else?" Dib shrugged. Zim stood silent for a few seconds before he suddenly responded.

"Well, she can't do that to Zim!" he shouted and clambered through the window.

"Zim!" Dib called as Zim was heading for the door. The alien wheeled around and stared up at him.

"What?" Zim questioned.

There were plenty of things that Dib could have said, that he wanted to say. Zim and he had never been so close before and the concept of being friends with him seemed awkward. But he wouldn't mind. Neither would Zim. Just as long as they both did not bring it up.

"Let me go in first," Dib offered, passing Zim by to the next room.

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"Irritating," Gaz grumbled as she stood up, still watching the screen. "Dib!"

"Gaz," Dib came in the room grinning, almost looking like he did before Dad had died. "Zim's complaining that the hot chocolate's not hot." Gaz's hands froze on the controller as she turned towards him.

Zim...?

"Well it's not!" Zim protested, entering the room and thrusting the mug into her hands. "It tastes horrible! How dare you try to fool Zim!"

Sandra let out a snort of laughter, but Gaz just narrowed her eyes at Zim.

"I don't do things because you ask me to, so don't you dare ask me to make some for you," she gave it back to Zim. "Dib's not doing anything, make him do it."

"But I'm making dinner!" Dib seemed taken aback, "And I'm not about to make a friendly drink for my enemy!"

"Friendly drink?" Zim questioned curiously. "Does it talk? Zim wants none of your drinks, Dib, if they talk. No matter how friendly they are."

Dib just stared at him. After seeming to have regained his composure, he turned back to Gaz. "I'll be in the kitchen." Before Zim could open his mouth again, Dib was gone. Zim clicked his tongue against his teeth.

"He just can't handle Zim," Zim grumbled. Gaz ignored him and sat back down on the couch.

This is more like it. Dad, I hope you don't mind me moving on. Someday.

She noticed the strange look Sandra gave her smile, but she just continued to play the game.

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Zim gazed down the table, still unsure why he was there. The offer of dinner from Dib had shocked him and he had nearly declined before Gaz pushed him down in a chair. So now the four of them sat there, eating. Zim had been quiet until he realized that food was on his plate.

"How do I know this isn't poisoned, Dib-stink?" Zim glared suspiciously at him, waiting for him to slip up.

"Because it came off of the same meat everyone else is eating," Dib said, as if it were obvious. Immediately, as if just suddenly thinking about it, Dib turned towards Sandra who was at his right. "He's an alien, you know," he gestured at Zim.

"Oh, that's nice,"Sandra shrugged as she sipped at her water. Dib's jaw dropped as Zim cackled with laughter.

"Why doesn't anyone care?" Dib asked, not pushing it and looking back at his own plate.

"Stop whining and eat," Gaz dumped sweet potatoes on his plate. Zim went back to his drink, only to realize it was empty.

"Give me more hot chocolate!" Zim demanded to Gaz, since she seemed to be passing out the food.

"Get it yourself," Gaz told him, putting the strange vegetable looking things in her mouth.

"But Gaz is closer!" Zim protested, pushing his drink cup to her.

"Yeah Gaz," Dib nodded. Gaz scowled at the both of them.

"And you often side with the alien?" Sandra rose an eyebrow at Dib. Zim watched in hidden awe as Gaz actually took his cup and filled it to the brim. He greedily took it back.

"Every once in a while," Dib shrugged, his eyes turning towards Zim's direction. Zim stuck his tongue out at him.

"He can't help that Zim is always right," Zim agreed.

"I didn't say that!" Dib denied.

The argument lasted until Gaz had enough. And when Gaz had enough, everyone had enough. Both Zim and Dib glared as Sandra laughed at both of them.

"So?" she questioned Dib, "Not the first alien I've seen."

Zim looked at Dib's shocked face before turning towards Gaz, who groaned at put her head in the table.

"Just the best alien, right?" Zim assured her.

"Don't tell me you like chasing paranormal too," Gaz said.

"I don't chase them," Sandra mentioned off-handedly as she skewered a piece of turkey. "I just find them interesting sometimes, just think about how many games and the level of intensity they would be if it were about things that people knew hardly anything about, but can't completely ignore."

Zim stayed contentedly quiet with his chocolate as Dib and Sandra got into an argument about capturing aliens. He grinned into his cup, joining the argument every once in a while to make if worse. He only faltered when he noticed that dinner was obviously over and Gaz was gone. Curious, he stood up and went to find her.

----------------------------------------------------

The roof was quiet. There still was no sense in sitting there, but Gaz's feelings were so mixed that she figured there wasn't any sense in anything and it didn't matter. It was quieter up there and she could think. Think of how it was like to feel like part of a family for once.

"Gaz?" Zim's voice came from the window she had come through as he joined her on the roof.

"I was waiting too, you know," Gaz mentioned quietly, swinging her legs off of the edge of the roof. Zim looked at her strangely as he sat down beside her.

"Waiting?" he questioned blankly. He seemed to catch on after a second, for he continued. "For Zim?"

She nodded.

"You're acting rather... not yourself," Zim told her, examining her face. Gaz finally looked up at him.

"I haven't been myself for a long time," she informed him. "Sometimes... I'm just not sure."

Zim blinked. "Not sure? Gaz is Gaz! Gaz is the Dib's sister! Gaz is the one who can stop the Dib and Zim both without even trying! Gaz is the game master! What is it that you're not sure about?"

"There's more then that!" she retorted.

"The more you speak of always seems to change, that's how it is with hyumans!" Zim responded haughtily. He then paused and looked up at the stars. "I... I missed you too."

Gaz's breath caught. She turned her head sharply towards the other. "Zim, the Irken Invader who needs no one? You are a laugh sometimes... why should I believe that?"

Zim shifted uncomfortably where he was as he was under Gaz's gaze. "You aren't like any hyuman I've met on this planet. If I was allowed my say, it would be that you aren't hyuman," Zim paused there and looked her over yet again. "You are far above them."

Gaz forced herself to roll her eyes away from Zim. He sounded so sincere, but it was Zim... what did he really understand? She stared down at the ground far below them.

"Thanks Zim."

"But I have done nothing!" he exclaimed indignantly. His mouth froze while open, then it shut without saying anything more, scowling. Gaz gave him a sideways glance.

"I could care less what you do to this planet," she told him simply, "But there are a few things that I do care about. Don't destroy those."

Zim stared at her openly, looking far past plain confused. "I... Zim destroys what he wants too! It just so happens I don't want to destroy what Gaz wants. It has nothing to do with me!" It looked like he attempted to scowl at her again, but failed as he just sat there looking somewhat miserable.

Gaz closed her eyes as she heard the sound of Vampire Slaughter being played inside the house, Sandra berating Dib's game play. She gave off the smile that she was not used to giving, the one he seemed to pull out of her. She stood up.

"Just as long as you know," she responded. She found herself leaning down towards him again, both willingly and unwillingly.

-----

"What's..." floated her voice to his antennae, only to float away as she left the rest of what she was going to say went silent. The feeling, the situation, the mood... it all was strange. Zim continued to sit where he was, trying to understand as she pulled away.

"What's space like?"

Zim watched her leave.

"Won't help me conquer Earth... hmm?"


Zim seems to miss the entire point, does he not?

I hope this lived up to the rest of the story, I tried my hardest to have an ending that would not suddenly have everything perfect, but would not suddenly have everyone dropping dead.

As for the people who wanted ZAGR, Gaz is too proud to say she liked anyone, and if Zim had those feelings, he would not understand them enough to show them anyways. And if he did understand, he would probably be more like Gaz about it. So Gaz's crush and Zim's confusion seems to be all what this story will entail.

Anyways, for the lovely people out there who like my work, other then thanking you for it I wish to ask which character should my next story be based around? It will not come up until I finish my one-shots and Paths Intertwined, but I have so many ideas started up, I am not sure which one to work on next. So if there is someone that someone wants to see/hear/read more of, I will take it into consideration.