Summary: Dib and Tak have a chance meeting and discuss just exactly what's wrong with Zim. Slight ZADR/ TADR

Dib was normal. Or at least that's what he liked to believe

He was enjoying himself on a sunny Saturday at the beach boardwalk. Tomorrow would be inevitably busy, religion put a lot of weight against the paranormal after all. He'd visit for a slight cleansing of his soul to push away the vampires and go on about his business. But Saturdays were heavenly, no school, no bullies, and a day to stretch out on a park bench and have a good look at everyone else.

He picked the beach boardwalk because of the ocean. Zim detested water, even with the ordinary precautions, and fled it like holy water on demons. It gave Dib a sense of safety that he rarely felt among the dingy halls of his school or the dark rooms of his house. It was sunlight and therefore forboding to his sister who insisted such sunlight ruined the vision on her game, and his father, who dwelled so long in dark research rooms that his veins were visible, sickly blue on milk white. Sunshine was almost prohibited.

So Dib was nonetheless surprised to see Tak on the street that day.

He was licking blissfully at an ice cream cone, strolling down the boardwalk humming cheerily to himself when he saw he out of the corner of his eye, sitting outside at a cafe. She was wearing a disguise to be sure, but it was hard to forget the girl who tried to drain the Earth. Mimi was crouched next to her, looking positively drab and exhausted. Even after so long, she obviously was suffering aftermaths of Gir's rampage. After a moment's shock, Dib drew himself up with air, with the air of an opera singer about to sing a tricky aria. But before he could shout out a heroic tirade against Tak, she swept over and smacked a hand over his mouth, looking annoyed.

"Oh hush, you idiot! I didn't come out here to put up with your irritating speeches!" she hissed, her other hand placed on her hip. Poor Mimi took one look at Dib and ducked underneath the cafe table, fake paws over her head, trembling.

"Mmph! Mrrgh moo foof-" Dib tried to shout under Tak's hand. Tak moved it tepidly.

"What?"

"What are you doing on Earth?!" he gasped. She scowled and plopped back down in her seat, picking up a mug of coffee again.

"Your planet's my last chance."

"What?" Dib gawked.

"Every since you humans and that filthy parasite Zim," she spat, "destroyed my plots, to offer Earth to my Tallest, to overtake the SIR units*....It all left me with nothing. I've had enough." she sipped tiredly at her drink. "I'm settling down."

"What's wrong with her?" he gestured to the pathetic SIR unit shaking like a leaf under the table.

"She's been busted ever since Zim's slavering rat Gir messed with her data!" she snapped, "She's not good for anything now!" At the increased volume of Tak's voice, Mimi yelped and ran off down an alley. Tak opened her mouth to call her back, but thought better and sighed against the porcelain edge of her cup. Dib cautiously sat down.

"Why did you keep her then?"

"She holds too much information that's valuable to me. She'll run back soon. She always does."

There was an awkward silence as Dib licked at his cone and Tak drank from her heavy cup. The sun seemed to beat down mockingly on their tense shoulders that bore so many questions. They seemed unable to talk, or make eye contact. Finally, Tak managed to break the silence.

"So...how's Zim?" she asked, holding back a shaky voice. More than anything, she wanted to hear bad news, that he was dead, injured, banished...

"Fine," answered Dib carefully, "Well...as fine as a crazed Invader can be I guess. He still comes to school, still schemes. Only..." he trailed off, unsure of what to say about the recent problems Zim seemed to face silently, things he never even cared about before...

"Yes?"

"Well...he'll come up to me and act really odd...and I don't mean, loud and screechy loud. I mean, he'll start talking about things that happened...before," he finally said, thinking about all their escapades against each other in the past, "Then he'll trail off and run away. It's a little confusing."

To his surprise, Tak simply shook her head and sighed.

"Oh dear. Oh man. This figures." she groaned.

"What? What's wrong with Zim?" Why was he asking this? When did he even care about that...that...abomination?

"Oh jeez. I forget how little you and your human people know about Zim." she said sadly, "Poor Zim. And to think I wanted that worm dead,"

"What is it?!" Dib almost shouted, surprising Tak and himself at his urgency. They barely noticed a small shadow twinge with terror in the alley, trying to creep back to her master.

"Zim," Tak began, unsure of what really to say, "Is a defect by Irken standards. Not just in height, but in cases of being mentally stable. To be sure he's quite clever, we saw that when we first met," she added bitterly, remembering that disatrous evening he threw her into deep space after regaining Earth. "But brains in the head of a defect are dangerous."

"Height?" Dib answered shakily. How could he not have noticed? That tiny Zim...barely coming up to his height induced waist... "Defect?"

"Most Irkens can expect to come up to a specific height, but Zim has barely changed. That's what causes him to be pushed around so much by the taller ones. But that's hardly a problem. His mental defect is much more dangerous."

"What defect?"

"His emotional status."

Dib was dumbstruck. That was it? It seemed so minor...

"When he was harvested," Dib winced at the ruthless term, "He recognized the robotic arm as a potential parent. When I grew up in the academy with him, he was always so clingy. Ruthless...but clingy. And you can't imagine a much worse combination." she shuddered, "The Tallest were a little too easy on him before, and that's what makes him so incredibly blind to their intentions."

"But...what's that got to do with me? Or any of us humans?"

"I'm only guessing, but I think he's come to adopt you as a kind of second family. It doesn't help you humans have such fondness for each other." she sniffed haughtily. Dib gritted his teeth. He could only guess she never had to worry about such defects.

All this while, Mimi mewled weakly, rubbing almost desperately against Tak's ankles. She kept shifting her feet to dodge the insistent attention, but Mimi simply crept back towards her feet. Finally, Tak lost her temper and sent Mimi yowling and flying with an firm kick. Dib yelled in shock as it fell into the water, quickly emerging, sopping wet and meowing with panic. Tak knocked over her seat standing up in fury and frustration.

"This is exactly what I'm talking about! Gir's been too exposed to human....human...affection-" she snarled "And made her turn out a soft, wimpy little weakling. It's irritating to be in such company!" She turned on her heel and tromped off, ending the conversation. Dib was left, shell shocked, in his chair, eyes widened in horror. Of all the things Zim could have wrong...

He would painfully notice, as dusk began to settle, that Mimi had crawled from another hiding place, sniffing derisively, searching for her master once more...