-Author's Notes: What to say . . . well, first Invader ZIM story and slight Zim/Tak ahead. I didn't know the names of certain things, so I had to make them up. Oh, also, most of this is AU. And I think that's it. Enjoy!-

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters, places, or titles. Invader ZIM and all that it includes belongs to Jhonen Vasquez.

If Only . . .

Zim flew back and hit the floor hard, jarring his entire body. His back ground against the hard floor for a few feet. Once he stopped, he scraped his mouth with the back of his hand, smearing bright green blood on his glove. All four limbs shaking, he pushed himself off the ground and turned his head to look back. His eyes met the barrel of a plasma gun. Behind the weapon was a pair of bright purple eyes and a livid face.

"You should have run when you had the chance," Tak hissed. "You were stupid to try to fight me."

The injured Irken heard the gun warming up. "You didn't give me much choice," he said, looking at her through the blood trickling down his face. "I know your type; you would hunt me down anywhere I went."

"True," she admitted. "I would. Now, close your eyes, Zim, and this doesn't have to hurt."

He blinked as best he could with one swollen eye, mind searching furiously for an escape. Tak's face was set in stone and her hand was steady. Zim was afraid; he didn't think she would actually kill him until now. "Listen, Tak, it doesn't have to be like this."

Tak's stony expression faultered. "Yes, it does! I gave you warnings, Zim, and more than enough chances! You just wouldn't listen!" Her voice started to shake. "You never listened . . . you never heard me . . ."

"Wh-what if I did?"

She scoffed. "If only you had."



Zim marched out of the Testing Center, smug smile on his face. The test had been entirely too easy for someone as amazing as he. Of course Zim had passed with flying colors (because he's amazing) and now . . .! He paused. Now what? It was still Testing Day and all transportation to and from Devastis was blocked to prevent unnecessary traffic. As Zim stood still to think, Irkens walked around him from Preparation Pods to the Testing Sites. Zim looked upon them with pity, for they could never be as great as ZIM!

Going against the flow of traffic, Zim walked for a while, generally thinking and getting into people's way. Coming back to the rows of Preparation Pods a glint caught his eye: a snack machine, bright, purple, and tempting. He began to drool at the sight of the delicious treasure inside. Yes, a snack! That would be perfect! His squeedily spooch turned in anticipation as he walked up to the machine, put his monies in, and pressed the button for his snack. A metallic pincher grabbed his bag with the smiley face, lifted, and jerked to a stop, snack still in grasp. Zim growled as the machine beeped, informing him of the error. He banged his fist against the glass but the bag stayed where it was. The machine just beeped mockingly.

Without a second thought, Zim released his spider legs from his PAK and fired upon the infuriating machine. He raised a brow when all this produced was a bit of smoke and a pathetic beep. Zim took a small moment to ponder why on Irk they would make snack machines this strong before his (incredible) brain switched to the problem of how to break the stupid thing. Stomping off, growling at gaping bystanders, he made his way over to the Security Tent.

Inside, two relatively tall Irkens were laughing, obviously on break, chewing on some sort of stick snack. This only made Zim more annoyed; oh, the injustice of it! "YOU!" He pointed to the nearest guard. "I need your Doomwalker!"

The guard looked up, casually brushing crumbs off his purple uniform with one hand. "You can't. Only guards have the proper authorize—Hey, what are you doing? You can't be up there!"

Zim didn't turn around as he climbed up the side of the nearest Doomwalker. Ignoring the yelling guards, he flipped into the cockpit and smiled. Oh yes, this would do nicely. Activating the Walker with a push of a big, smiley button, he commenced directing the weapon towards the annoying snack machine. Below him, Irkens ran in terror, narrowly avoiding the Doomwalker's large feet. Once in front of the row of Preparation Pods and the broken dispenser, Zim felt a maniacal laugh swell up inside of him. Laughing at his victory, he aimed the Doomwalker's cannon and fired.

The snack machine hadn't stood a chance.

Once the smoke cleared and his laughter had died down, Zim climbed out of the Doomwalker and walked over to the ruins of the vending machine. Ignoring the screaming around him, he picked up his change and several snacks, opening a stick one. "Mm, snack!" Chewing on it happily, he turned to walk to the Waiting Area when he thought he heard something.

He was going to dismiss.

But something stopped him.

He turned around.

His eyes fell upon a female Irken inside one of the pods, banging on the glass and yelling.

Zim smiled and waved. For some reason, this seemed to anger the Irken inside, who growled and mouthed something. Zim frowned; he couldn't understand why she wasn't happy. Hadn't Zim just honored her by smiling and waving at her? He marched toward her pod, intent on giving her a piece of his mind. Once close, he could make out what she was screaming.

"Finally! Open the door!" she yelled, pounding her fists against the glass.

"What?" Zim yelled back.

"The door is stuck! I can't get out!"


"I'm going to miss my test!


"Are you deaf? OPEN THE DOOR!"

Rubbing his chin, Zim inspected the door. Most of the demolished snack dispenser was in front of the entrance, still smoking to Zim's pleasure. "The door's stuck!" he informed the stuck Irken.

She looked ready to hit her head against a wall. The words 'Well duh,' or 'Well done,' came from inside, but Zim couldn't tell which. Probably 'Well done.'

"Yes, I know," Zim said, smiling modestly. "I shall rescue you now!" He marched away much to the dismay of the Irken inside. Still chewing on his snack, Zim climbed back into the cockpit of the Doomwalker and pushed a few buttons. The Doomwalker hummed in response and turned to kick the rubble out of the way, the happy Irken inside leaning into his seat and smiling.

Inside the pod, Tak narrowed her eyes and then widened them as the large metal foot came speeding towards the door. She jumped to the side as the metal slab that used to be a door was kicked into the opposite wall with a shower of dust. Once she was sure the insane Irken outside wasn't going to kill her with any other stupid stunts, Tak stormed out of the pod to find said Irken. He was still chewing on that stupid snack and smiling. "What was that for?" she demanded.

The Irken looked confused. Then he smiled, took the snack out of his mouth and said, "You may thank me now!"

Tak stood there for a moment, trying to comprehend. "Wha—Never mind. I don't have time for this!" She looked at the giant clock upon one of the towers only to find it blank. Looking around at the towering buildings around them, she found all the windows dark, along with all of the street lights. "You blew out the power?" she asked, infuriated. This had to be the worst day of her life.

Eating the snack once more, the strange Irken looked at her. "Huh?"

"Oh, forget it! I'll just have to go to the Alternative Testing Site!" Tak turned gratefully away from the moron but was stopped by a hand on her wrist.

Zim held on to the female's arm, frowning. "Hey! You haven't said thank you yet!" he reminded.

She growled. "I will not miss my test because of you! Let go!"

"Not until you say thank you to ZIM!"

" . . . Zim?" she repeated.

"Yes, I AM ZIM!" he yelled, throwing his fists in the air, jerking her arm with him.

"I don't have time for this! Last chance to let go!" She clawed at his hand but his fingers didn't budge.


"Fine." She activated her PAK legs, lifting Zim up with her.

He immediately started to protest. "Hey, put me down! PUT ZIM DOWN! How dare youuuuu!"

But she wasn't listening. Instead, her PAK legs sprinted towards her test, rushing around and over startled Irkens. Through all the screaming from Zim (who continued to talk about himself in third person, the wierdo), she listened to the floating announcer. "Due to a strange power outage on the entire half of Devastis, all tests have been moved to the Alternative Testing Site! Go there now to prove your worth as an Invader!" Tak smiled. So she wasn't too late! She increased her speed into the lit part of the planet. Spotting an incredibly long line signaling a Testing Site, she started up the stairs to the building. The Irkens waiting in line complained as she past them. Once at the top she put away her PAK legs, dropping gracefully to the ground. Beside her, Zim landed flat on his face.

Tak shoved the first person in line violently down the steps and took his place.

"Next," droned a bored looking guard from behind a large desk. "Name?"

"Tak," Tak answered, smiling. She made it!

"Tak? What kind of name is Tak?" Zim asked, getting on his feet and brushing himself off.

Tak's smile faded. "Well, one doesn't usually say it like they're throwing up a hairball," she said testily.

"You can go in," informed the guard, not looking up from the paperwork before him.

Without looking back, Tak went into a room, similar to the Preparation Pod, to take her test.

Zim stood outside and chewed his snack, content to wait. She still hadn't said thank you.

The Idea

"That was the stupidest test I've ever taken!" ranted Tak, walking beside Zim away from the Alternative Testing Site. "I almost wish I had missed it."

Zim nodded. "Mhm. Yeah, I know what you mean."

"I mean, what was the point? All of the questions, ALL OF THEM, were about how I could best serve the Tallest! And most of the answers had to do with snacks! There was nothing, nothing, that actually tested any knowledge of . . . of anything!"

"Mhm. Yeah, I know what you mean."

"I was expecting, I don't know, something a little more challenging. A fight, perhaps, with the Digestor, or an obstacle course. But this? Four hundred questions about snacks? How does that prove I'm an invader?"

"Mhm. Yeah, I know what you mean."

"Zim? Are you even listening to me?"

Zim looked over, sucking on a soda. "Of course! Zim always listens!"

Tak looked at him for a moment before sighing. "I feel like such a fool. I studied for hours, practiced, honed my skills, and for what?"

"For a waste of your AMAZING skills?" Looking over again, Zim shrugged at Tak's stunned expression. "I told you, I know what you mean. The test was too easy for someone with my superior intellect. It's a pity, really, that it wasn't harder. They will not see the skills of ZIM!"

". . . Okay, whatever."

For a while, the two Irkens walked in silence, Zim slurping on his drink and Tak lost in her own thoughts.

". . . see our skills . . . proper recognition . . ." she mumbled to herself. In the back of her mind, a plan began to form.

It was several weeks later when Zim received a call. He put down his welder (he'd been working on a brilliant new invention that had to do with a giant canon that would shoot frosting) and pressed the blinking button on the console. The screen flickered on and Tak, currently looking off the screen, turned to face him.

"Finally. Zim, this is Tak," the Irken said through the screen.


Tak frowned. "Tak. From Devastis? You nearly made me miss my test. Then afterwards you got chased off by guards for stealing a Doomwalker and blowing out the power on half of the planet. Then you bailed yourself out of jail?"

Zim smiled in recognition. "Ah yes, called to say thank you, have you? I'm glad you could finally recognize ZIM'S astounding—"

"What? No! I'm not saying thank you."

Lowering his arms, Zim stopped smiling. "Oh, you're not? Then what do you want?"

Carefully watching his expression, Tak spoke. "I have an idea. Do you remember how you said it was a pity no one would ever know how qualified we were?"

"Uh . . ."

"Well, you did," Tak continued, impatient. "I've thought it over thoroughly and I've decided this will so impress the Tallest that I'll have to be made an Invader. I'm offering you a chance to do this with me."

"Do what?"

A smirk spread across her face. "We're going to conquer a planet."

Zim's eyes widened. "Really? Cool. WAIT! What is this MADNESS?" he asked (or, screamed rather). "Have you the brain worms?"

Tak's eyes narrowed. "No, like I said, I've thought this through and I think—"

"The Tallest would never allow you! Only Invaders can do that."

"I know! But—"

"The Tallest will have you executed, or banished! They'll feed you to the horrible space fish!"

"Space fi—what? Listen, Zim, I know the consequences, but—"

"Did you not hear me? I said FISH! Awful fish with long pointy teeth and, um, stomachs!" His fingers waved creepily as he hunched over, glaring at nothing.

"Would you quit interrupting me?" Tak yelled, leaning forward herself. "Are you coming or not?"

Zim straightened and answered calmly and without hesitation. "Of course."


Zim looked at the desolate landscape around them. Harsh winds whistled as it snaked its way between towers and whipped sand into his eyes. The sun beat down on him and Tak as they searched the mounds of junk that reached unreasonable heights. He put a hand above his eyes and looked up at the crags above them. "Sooo . . . what are we doing here again?"

On her hands and knees, Tak sighed in frustration. "I told you, I don't have a ship like you do and I don't have the monies to buy one. I'm capable of building my own, but I need supplies. Planet Dirt has those supplies."

Kicking an old snack bag and watching it blow away, Zim raised a brow. "This is all junk."

"Exactly. Most of this stuff is still useful." She crawled into one of the junk piles until only her feet were visible. "And none of it will be missed. I've already—ow!—found the foundation for my ship. It just needs—ouch!—some parts." Carefully, she scooted back out and sat on her heels, a piece of machinery in her hands. Inspecting it, she nodded and then tossed it to Zim. "Here, catch."

Zim, who wasn't paying much attention, turned and got hit in the face with the mass of metal. Consequently, he flew back a few feet with an 'aragh!'

Tak didn't notice and continued speaking. "Also, I was thinking. Robots, little ones, might be useful as information retrievers. So be on the look out for good robot parts too."

Sitting up, Zim rubbed his head. "Fine, sure, whatever."


"Your robot is uneven."

Tak glared at Zim. "That's because you took the last good arm! I've had to make do." She held up the three fingered claw, flexing it experimentally. "Speaking of which, do you have an extra voice box? I couldn't find any."


"Ah well. She'll have to do without. Anyway, how's yours coming?"

Grinning, Zim held up a small, simple, shiny robot. "It's FINISHED! You may praise me now."

"Already?" Tak inspected the limp body. "Seems solid." Knocking the side of the robot's head, Tak listened to the echoes. "Though it sounds a little . . . empty."

"Oh, well, it's missing a few parts, but it'll work just fine," said Zim, laying the robot back on the table, watching as the head rolled to one side.

"'Missing?'" Tak asked skeptically. "You mean you didn't have the patience to go look for the needed parts."

Zim shrugged.

Sighing resignedly, Tak put down the robot arm and turned to face Zim. "What exactly is it missing? Maybe I have a few spares."

"This and that. Mostly, it's missing a brain."

"N-no—Your robot has no brain?? Your stupidity astounds me, Zim. How's it going to work without a brain?"

"It's got a replacement brain."

"Replacement?" She rubbed her forehead. "Do I want to know what exactly is replacing it?"

"Um, a paperclip, two monies, and a bouncy ball. Or was it bubble gum?"

Zim watched wide eyed as Tak slammed her head on the table repeatedly, sending various robot pieces jumping.


Tak's eyes lit up and she pointed. "That one. Let's take over that one."

Zim followed her finger to the blue and green planet before them. "That one? That pile of—" he shuddered. "—dirt?"

"Yes. It's perfect. It's out of the way, no one else is going to take it, and it's perfectly useless."

He squinted at the female in the other ship. "Wouldn't that make it . . ." Waving his hand, he looked for the right word. "Not good?"

Tak shrugged. "Call it an obsession of mine. I like taking worthless things and making them into something of value. Trust me, Zim, this planet, Earth, is our ticket to becoming Invaders."

Studying the planet carefully, Zim said, "It still just looks like a hunk of filth. But if this is the planet to be conquered by ZIM then I shall go down." He started pressing the Voot's buttons when Tak's voice came over the communication link.

"What? We can't go down now. We need time to study the people here, see what they find normal. Invaders just don't rush into—"

"Yes, yes, that's all very fascinating," Zim murmured over her. "GIR!"

The small robot saluted, eyes red. "Yes, my master!"

"We're going down. Your job will be to collect information about what these . . . um, Earthanoids find normal." He looked down to find Gir's eyes a bright cyan and staring out the window.

Gir waved happily at the red-eyed robot in the other ship. "I see yooooouuu MIMI! PEEK-A-BOO!"

Mimi looked at Gir with a tired expression.

Cackling, Tak said, "I think Gir's improving, Zim. You had his attention for a full two seconds that time."

Scowling at the female, Zim turned back to his robot who was currently hitting his head on the wall. "Stop, Gir!"

The robot giggled and fell backwards, hitting Zim's foot and causing the Irken to yelp in pain.

Zim glared as Tak broke out in laughter. Jumping on the console, he pointed dramatically. "Oh, laugh now, Tak! But I will show you! Gir and I will take over this PATHETIC planet before you even go down!"

Her laughter died away. "Are you issuing a challenge, Zim?"

"First one to conquer Earth gets Invader status."

Tak grinned, eyes sparkling. "I'll give you a head start."

The Dib

It was some time before Tak contacted Zim to inform him she was coming down to Earth. However, this didn't prepare him for her arrival at skool the next day. He had to admit, the jet was rather a nice touch but when she walked through the door . . . it was stunning. Her disguise could have fooled even him!

"Hi," the 'human' girl smiled. "I'm Tak. I'm new here."

As the class behind him chorused 'Hello Tak,' Zim just gaped. She looked so . . . so human! Even her behavior was like them, passing out (disgusting!) meat out to everyone in the class. But his awe went out the window when she walked over to the Dib and handed him a special Valentine weenie.

Zim gripped the side of his desk so hard he left claw marks. How dare she give the Dib-stink, his archenemy, a piece of meat! He had warned her of the danger the Dib presented! Instead of avoiding him like he advised she seemed to be . . . flirting with him. For his part, Dib looked as dumbstruck as anyone. He just gaped at Tak until Miss Bitters told everyone to sit down before all the blood rushed from their heads and caused further brain damage.

For the rest of the class, Zim tried to catch Tak's eye but she seemed hardly to recognize him or even look at him. Instead he had to wait for the end of skool and try to talk to her then. He called after her when she left the building but even then, Tak wouldn't turn around until they were out of sight of everyone. Once they were away from all the skool children, she spun around, glaring. "Are you trying to give me away?" she asked. "No one can know we know each other or we'll both be caught! By the way, your disguise is horrible. No wonder Dib saw right through it."

Zim frowned. "Why did you give the Dib-stink a piece of atrocious meat? You don't want to draw his attention! Didn't you listen to anything I told you?"

Tak looked a little surprised. "Of course I did. I gave it great thought. He's smart enough to see through your disguise and make clever contraptions to stop you. He's determined enough to save the Earth despite the ridicule he receives and most importantly, he's stopped you more times than I can count. Dib is more useful to me as a friend than an enemy."

"What are you saying?"

"The humans have a saying: my enemy's enemy is my friend."


She smiled. "So, Zim, remember our contest? We can use any tools we wish." Turning, she walked away down the sidewalk, smirking all the while.

It took Zim a while to figure out what she meant. "Oh, that's cheating!" he yelled, even though she was too far to hear him. "Using the Dib to stop me! We'll just see about that. Oh, we'll just see."

However, Zim still didn't know what to do about it the next day. He went to skool, fuming. Passing the playground, he saw Tak and Dib sitting on a low brick wall, talking, and (he shuddered) sharing meat (though Tak refused any). Growling, he stomped his way over to them.

"No, it's just I'm not used to people being interested in my paranormal studies," Dib was saying, looking a little dazed. "As for Zim, well—" He yelled as Zim shoved him harshly over the wall where the human landed in a spray of prickly branches.

"Tak! I must speak with you," Zim said.

Tak's face was completely dull.

Climbing out of the thicket, Dib glared at Zim. "Maybe she doesn't want to talk with green alien freaks, Zim!"

Zim just pushed him back into the sticks and turned his attention back to Tak. "Despite his large head the Dib-monkey is quite stupid."

"My head's not big!" yelled Dib's voice from behind the bricks.

"You would do much better in choosing . . . someone else as your partner," Zim finished.

For a long moment, there was silence. A hawk cried. Then Tak pulled out a bottle of barbeque sauce and sprayed it in Zim's face all in one smooth motion. Zim fell back screaming in agony, writhing on the ground and smoking. Through his pain he could hear Dib and Tak laughing. He swore right then and there to put a stop to this nonsense.

The rest of the day was filled with a horrible montage of pain. He tried at various times of the day to talk to Tak, but all he got in return was a face full of orange juice, meat on his head, he got tied up with his own note-passing equipment, and later he was chased by vicious dogs. Deciding to try a different approach, Zim gathered his courage and marched to the Dib's house.

Dib's father, that famous scientist what's-his-name, answered the door. He invited Zim in without a second thought, saying how it was ABOUT TIME! that his son invite some friends over. Unfortunately, he said, his son was taking a nap at the moment but that he should be up and about in a few minutes. In the mean time, would Zim like some tea? Zim found that Professor Membrane was decent as far as intelligence went, for a human. As the Professor told Zim how his jell-o x-ray camera kept falling apart, Zim nodded in full understanding.

"But that's just the way things turned out," Membrane finished.

Pretend sipping his tea, Zim agreed. "Mhm, yeah, I know what you mean."

Dib chose that moment to enter the kitchen, yawning. He'd had the weirdest dream about Tak and—he gaped as he saw Zim of all people sitting at his kitchen table, conversing with his dad.

"Ah, there you are, son!" greeted his dad. "Your little foreign friend is here to see you."

Zim, the wretch, looked perfectly innocent and civil.

"Dad, that's the alien!" Dib yelled, jumping on the chair and pointing.

But his father misconstrued the meaning and just laughed and stood up. "Of course he is! You two have fun now." Dumping the rest of his tea in the sink he walked down into the basement.

After watching his father close the door, Dib turned and glared at Zim. He stood on the table to gain the height advantage. "What's this all about, Zim?"

Setting down the mug, Zim's innocent look melted into one of business. "It seems the enemies have a common enemy," he said, using Tak's expression. "Tak! She's Irken and she's after my job and your planet."

Dib let his battle posture relax a little. "Oh come on, I like Tak." He grinned. "And she hates you! You're just jealous that she won't even talk to y—"

"This has nothing to do with jelly!" Zim yelled, also climbing to stand on the table. "I can understand how your pathetic human brain stuff could miss the fact that she's an Irken. She's good. Not good like me, but still good."

"She seems perfectly normal to me. Her skin's not green; she's got a nose and ears. She speaks normally and doesn't rave about taking over the world. She's everything your not, Zim."

Zim growled. "But she's Irken."

Dib rolled his eyes. "This is just stupid."

"Your voices are making me sick!" complained Gaz, walking into the kitchen, soda in hand.

"Oh, I knew you were too stupid to understand!" Zim hissed. "She'll destroy your world!"

"I can't believe you're saying this!"

"When your planet is nothing but a smoldering ruin you'll wish it was ME who'd—"

Gaz shook her soda can and sprayed the sticky liquid at the alien. Zim screamed, jumped off the table and ran to the window, opened it, and rolled outside.

Dib listened to the distant explosion and smiled. "Thanks, Gaz, he was really—AUGH!" he screamed as Gaz gave him the same treatment.

"Be quiet," she said, marching back into the living room.

F is for Pitiful Failure

"You cheated," Tak hissed, roughly sitting down in the kitchen chair.

Zim sat across from her and shook his head. "Nuh uh. It was a completely fair victory for ZIM!"

"You and the Dib weren't supposed to work together!"

"I swear, I had no idea the Dib-monkey would follow me to the Weenie Stand and turn off your . . . uh, Earth deflator . . . thingy."

"Magma Pump." Putting her head in her hands, Tak sighed. "Do you realize that if Dib hadn't shown up, I would have won? The Earth would have been filled with snacks by now! I don't even have my ship anymore." She rubbed her forehead as she watched Gir carry a jumble of silver metal towards the labs. "And I still don't understand what happened to Mimi."

Zim looked innocently at the ceiling and his computer coughed uncomfortably. Tak paid no heed.

"It will take me days to fix Mimi. Not to mention I need to find my ship and come up with a cover story for this if I want to keep my human identity." She sighed and put her chin in her hand. Her eyes rested on the table in front of her.

Drumming his fingers in the awkward silence, Zim looked around, and then looked intensely at Tak. "Are you giving up then?"

Tak's depressed face broke into a smirk as she met his eyes. "You kidding?" She sat up and stretched her arms out in front of her. "I warn you; I won't be so easy on you this time."

Zim smiled in anticipation.

Cover Up

Dib chewed his Chinese take out thoughtfully as the anchor woman switched stories.

"And now," she announced, "we have the official press release from President Deelicious about Wednesday's strange occurrences."

After a brief montage of flying magma, splitting streets, and screaming people, the television displayed the live press conference with Mr. Deelicious and his daughter, Tak. Dib stopped chewing and listened.

"We at the Deelicious Weenie Corporation wish to apologize for Wednesday's . . . fiasco, shall we say," said the President into the many microphones before him. "What we were trying to do was use a more environmental way to cook our hot dogs."

Tak leaned forward. "We were using the magma pump for geothermal heating. Unfortunately, our machine got a little out of hand."

Dib snorted. "That's an understatement."

"However, now we know better and we can assure you the magma pump will not be used again." The girl smiled charmingly and the audience sighed contentedly.

Sighing with them, Dib's hear melted a little. Then the commercials came on (the ACNE BLAST one to be precise. Dib rolled his eyes). Dib stuck his chop sticks into the corner of the box and pulled out the last of the chow mein.

It was a shame, really, he thought to himself as he swallowed. Tak had no idea her father was being mind controlled. He'd have to break it gently to her tomorrow at skool.

"Zim was right, you know," said Gaz, sitting on the opposite side of the couch.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

Gaz snatched a spring roll. "About Tak being an alien. He was right, for once."

"Oh, not you too! She's not an alien!"

Opening one eye, Gaz gave her brother a piercing gaze. "And the magma pump was just a little accident? I don't care if you have a crush on her; stop being stupid and use your head."

Dib frowned and crossed his arms as his sister devoured her food. He would have argued but he knew it would end with him getting only a black eye and a couple of lost teeth if he was lucky. Instead he turned back to the T.V. Even though he was sure Tak was human, Dib couldn't help but wonder; when was the last time he saw Tak eat?

Happily . . . Well, Ever After

Routine was a funny word, Tak decided. When one said they followed a routine, it invoked the idea of a normal pattern of life. What she, Zim, and Dib shared was anything but normal.

Many things had changed over the past five years. They no longer had to put up with Ms. Bitters' depressing, doom-filled rants, their classmates had become slightly more mature (well, now that Tak thought about it, not really), and President Man had retired, leaving his job to President Dude.

Of course, there were things in life that didn't change in the slightest. Dib's sister Gaz was just as scary and game obsessed (though her hair grew very long, especially the bangs with covered one half of her face). Professor Membrane was still the most famous and popular scientist ever. The world didn't believe Dib any more now than when Zim had first come to Earth and Zim still hadn't changed his stupid disguise.

And the competiveness between Zim, Tak, and Dib was still the same.

Sure their plans had become more elaborate (and in many cases, more stupid) and the fighting more intense. Cuts gave way to slashes and bruises gave way to broken bones. However, all three parties had the technology to heal themselves within the week and there were very few reprieves. But in spite of the growing seriousness, all three never failed to add in juvenile taunts, notes, and pranks. April Fool's Day had been particularly spectacular with very little injury but a colossal amount of damage due mostly to Zim's Kinda-Fake-Atomic-Jack-In-The-Box-Explody. Though Tak did add her own flair with a candle that never died that eventually set the skool on fire with a water resistant flame.

Yes, beneath all that, their feelings remained the same.

Dib would fight Tak who fought Zim who fought back at both of them. Sometimes, when things got a little too serious, alliances would emerge (thought none of the parties would admit it later, claiming all glory for themselves).

The fight for the fate of the world was by now routine. It would not stop, the cycle would not break, and everyone was fine with that.

They still hated the other's guts as much as the day they met.

Well, not quite, Tak admitted as she walked down the sidewalk leading to Zim's house. She and Zim had . . . well, Zim and Tak were the only Irkens on the planet. So when they found themselves tired of human culture it was only natural they would go to each other's base. Irken snacks, Irken entertainment, and Irken company was appreciated on both sides.

As time went on, maybe it was a little more than appreciated.

Several hours later, Zim and Tak sat on the couch, slumped down into the cushions and sharing a stick lick snack. The movie on was a human film which was rather shallow, filled with screaming and monsters that would invoke snickers from the two aliens. Gir was downstairs with Mimi and the computer was silent. Through the high pitched pitiful wail coming from the TV, Zim suddenly spoke.

"Tak, what do you think would have happened if I hadn't rescued you?"

"What do you mean?"

"If you had missed your test and we never met. What do you think would have happened?"

Tak thoughtfully tapped her stick on her chin before answering. "I would have hunted you down, wherever you went, and made you writhe in agony."

Slightly frightened by the seriousness of her voice, Zim let the topic drop. About fifteen minutes later, during the climax of the movie where the giant mutant lobsters were crashing through Main City, Zim spoke again. "Why did you choose me?"

Stick in mouth, Tak gave a sideways glance at her companion. Zim stared back intently. The light from the TV flickered across his face in stark contrast to the darkness around him. "I'm not quite sure I understand what you're asking."

"Back when you first came up with the idea to conquer a planet. Why did you call and invite me?"

Tak shrugged and pretended to watch the movie "Because I felt like it I guess."

"You always have a reason."

Looking again, Tak turned a little to face him. "Is this important?"



"Because I want to know." His gaze didn't let up.

Feeling slightly uncomfortable now, Tak shifted in her seat. "I don't know, I guess I thought it would be more fun to have someone around. Competition drives people to do their best, you know."

"But why me?"

She bit on the stick distractedly. "Because . . . you were different." When he didn't answer, she dropped the stick in the container and continued. "Most Irkens I've met . . . they're dull. They're all the same; their life consists solely of what they're given." Turning all the way to face Zim, she met his eyes. "You were different. You were creative, relatively smart, and a little, well, very crazy. You . . . aspired to be more. And that . . . attracted me." Carefully she kept her face calm and cool while she awaited the response.

Instead of the 'Oh, okay,' she was expecting or even a ridiculing laugh, Zim only leaned closer, so close Tak could feel his breath. Her throat tightened and her breathing deepened, not out of fright but of . . . of . . . what? She wanted to pull away, that was her initial reaction; Irkens in general were not very intimate or even comfortable with being physically close. But instead she found herself being pulled closer and closer until . . .


Tak blinked at the thoughts that came to mind and shook her head to get rid of them. That other universe, what might have been was not important right now. She needed to focus. "Things could have been so different. I could have been an Invader, famous, rich. My life could have been perfect But you had to go and ruin it." She paused. "Maybe . . . maybe even you and I would be different. This is all your fault."

Zim simply looked up, terrified. He swallowed with some difficulty. "Please . . . Tak . . ."

"Don't beg!" she yelled, shoving the gun between his eyes, causing him to flinch and tremble. "Don't you dare beg! You chose this life. Now, you're going to follow it to the end." But even though her words were final, Tak couldn't stop her hands from shaking. It wasn't too late to change it . . .

No, she thought. It is too late. From the very moment he left me in that pod it was too late.

But the nagging doubt in the back of her head wouldn't leave.

"I'm . . . sorry," she said. Unsure, even then, she closed her eyes and began to pull the trigger . . .

A/N: So before you kill me about the ending, let me explain: I wanted to leave it up to you (the reader) to decide whether Tak has a change of heart or not. It's up to you! If people want me to write a solid ending, I will.
Like I said before, this is my first Invader ZIM story. Critique is welcome. Please review and tell me what you think.