Part Eleven -
"You're gonna be okay."
The first thing Zim said was "It doesn't hurt."
They were sitting at his kitchen table, side by side instead of across from one another, and at those cautious words Dib was already so anxious his stomach hurt.
"What doesn't- "
But Zim cut him off with a shake of his head, looking miserable. He glanced around the room, studied Dib's face for a moment, then put a hand on the table and raised the other to his left eye.
Dib felt a thrill as Zim removed the purple contact lense- he hadn't seen the red of Zim's real eyes in-
He reeled back.
Zim removed the second contact. Dib felt bile rising in his throat and clamped a hand over his mouth. Zim lay the contacts in a shallow dish on the table, and hesitated, then moved wandering, sightless pink eyes to about where Dib's were.
He's blind. Without those contacts he's-
"Oh- oh god, Zim- "
They both flinched in surprise as the monitor behind the couch in the living room came to life, the Irken leaders peering in at the empty room impatiently. Zim scrambled blindly for the dish on the table, calling over his shoulder "I'll be right there, my Tallest," in a voice that sounded remarkably calm for a creature caught so helplessly off-guard. Dib reached out to guide Zim's hands and the small not-human thanked him quietly.
Dib sat where he was when Zim stood to rush to the living room. After a long moment, he was able to move just enough to put his face in his hands, glasses sliding up onto his forehead. His stomach was churning; he felt like he was about to pass out.
It was only about five minutes before there was a touch on his shoulder. "Do you need to leave?"
There was an escape in that question. Zim was giving him a way out of- all this. Of knowing any more of this terrible secret.
Dib picked his head up and turned to face him. The Irken had his sleeves drawn over his hands, clenching the ends of them tightly, purple eyes bright and uncertain.
"You look like you're about to be sick. Was this a terrible idea? I just thought- "
"You're gonna die." It wasn't a question.
Zim blinked, and when he said "Probably," Dib wanted to scream.
"Probably?" He stood, fiercely, kicking the chair out of the way, and Zim had just enough stubborn Irken left in him that he didn't flinch away or back up, just let Dib tower over him in rage, looking up at him with wide careful eyes. "So you've thought about it then, mulled it over while deigning not to tell me, and you think that's okay? Keeping all that to yourself? You'll probably die. What the fuck is that, Zim?" He grabbed the alien's shoulders, clenched the fabric of his jacket there and drew Zim closer, almost snarling; he could never remember feeling like this before- not quite anger, not quite fear, but something with teeth that gnawed its way to the pit of his stomach and made his hands shake. "Tell me- what the fuck is that."
"I...I'm not sure what you- "
"How do you have the gall to be mad at Anne? She did exactly what you're doing, hiding it away and trying to deal with it on her own. She probably would have died that way too, but she got help. And that's what you're getting, Zim." He let go of him, running an agitated hand through his hair. "Fuck. I can't even- I knew you were sick, I knew something was wrong, but- it caused you to go blind and you didn't think that was enough of a warning bell? Your skin is so pale now you can easily pass for European which is probably why all those goddamn girls oggle you everytime we try to go fucking anywhere, jesus. And still, didn't think to mention it. That's what you were doing when I found you unconscious in your lab wasn't it? Trying to come up with some- some antitode or whatever. I'm just as smart as you are Zim don't you think between the two of us we would have had a better shot at figuring this out? I can't believe you. Now you're- now it's damaged you forever, because of your goddamn pride, and that's-"
Dib paused in his violent pacing. "What?"
"I'm sorry." Zim looked absolutely tiny, and his eyes were round under that mop of messy hair. "I meant to- I wanted to ask you several times, but-"
"But what?" Dib snapped, still trembling. "Irken invader can't sink so low as to ask help from a-"
"I was scared." Purple eyes narrowed at him, daring for just a moment, before dropping to the tile floor. "It had nothing to do with pride."
The silence stretched for a minute that felt like an hour, as Dib stared at Zim and Zim stared at the floor. The few feet between them tugged at Dib's aching heart.
He was all on by himself for so long. He wanted to ask for help and he didn't know how. And his body was failing and he didn't know why, and it happened so slowly he probably really didn't notice until he started having problems seeing, and by then the damage was done. So he worked on it by himself, and meanwhile we were becoming friends, and he didn't say a word. Why would he? Saying it out loud makes it real and he was probably afraid of what I'd say. What I'd do. Maybe he thought I'd leave.
Dib crossed the distance between them and pulled Zim into a hug, breath catching at the thought of not being able to hold him in the future. Zim curled into him immediately, silently, and if there was a way to save him Dib would find it no matter what.
There had to be a way.
"We're in this together now, okay?" Zim nodded against his shoulder and Dib sighed. "Okay. Everything's gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay. We'll fix this."
They spent the night on the couch with G.I.R. and about seven romcoms, only getting up once to get the door when the delivery guy finally got there with an insane amount of Chinese takeout.
About halfway through the second movie Dib put an arm around Zim's shoulders and Zim leaned against him.
The hugs were a new thing, and already Dib's arms felt empty without him.
"We'll fix this."
Part Eleven - End