A/N: Welp, here we go again. I can't tell you guys how many times I started and re-started work on this chapter before finally giving in and leaving it as it is now. I just couldn't get it to flow the way I wanted, so I apologize for the ridiculously long wait on this chapter...AGAIN. Gah! It seems every time I manage to grasp at a little motivation for writing, something in life comes along to draw my attention away from this story. By the time I finally got into a decent writing routine and was making some actual progress on this chapter, I then got interrupted by family coming to visit for 3 weeks straight. To say the very least, that threw my writing process completely out of whack and then when I FINALLY started to get back on track with my writing, we had a death in the family. So I put my writing down again to fly out to California and attend my uncle's funeral. Only just now am I TRULY getting back into my usual routine again. I don't know if that means updates will be coming out any more frequently, but as always, I'll keep trying. I don't want this story to take me another 9 years just to finish it. But at this rate, who knows when it will be done. At least I'm hanging in there with it though. XD

Anyways, here's the long awaited next chapter for those of you still reading it. And to any new viewers I may have, thank you very much for your support of this story. Even though I haven't had much time to respond to messages on here, please know that I DO read every single comment I get. And I'll keep trying to actively respond to any comments left by those of you reading the story. Your messages always make my day in the long run and keep me motivated.

That being said, I hope you all enjoy this next chapter! :)

ZADR Orange Chapter 197

Warnings: Extreme OOCness

Rating: M for later chapters

Disclaimer: We do not own Invader Zim, nor any of the characters from it. We do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Zim: Notgonnadie

Dib: Me

Enjoy. =3

Registering the touch of discomfort lingering in his mate's hesitant question, Zim smiled at Dib consolingly before leaning in to nuzzle the hybrid delicately. "No, it's not. I had that bathroom demolished and replaced with a new one. My base is in the process of constructing it as we speak, and it should be ready for use by the time we return home." he stated in a matter-of-fact tone, having made it a priority to have that sorted out first upon his initial visit home following the incident. After all, the last thing they needed going into the final trimester of Dib's pregnancy was yet another reminder of everything that had unfolded, the remaining scars on both their bodies already serving to plague their minds with unpleasant memories of the traumatic home invasion.

"R-Really?" Dib pulled back to blink wide, disbelieving eyes up at Zim, the other's warm yet ever so confident smile putting him more at ease.

Zim nodded and hugged his love close. "I don't want you having any bad memories floating around while we're trying to relax at home." he said in a voice tender with affection.

"I-I don't want that either..." Dib clung to Zim as he pulled him close, pressing his face to the other's side deliberately and practically pushing himself beneath the Irken's uniform top. He shuddered at the recollection of that day nonetheless though, the memories materializing within his head without question and flooding him with doubt again.

"Shhh...It's okay, Dib. Zim is here."

Taking in a shaky breath at those words, Dib then let it out slowly to calm himself back down. "They hurt you so badly..." he said, resting a cheek against Zim's skin and trying to keep his emotions in check so they wouldn't consume him.

"They hurt you too..." Zim said back softly, tightening his grip on the teen even more as an almost innate compulsion to keep the other safe came over him in an instant. He never wanted to be faced with the risk of somebody taking his Dib away again, or vice versa.

"That doesn't matter!" Dib cut the other off before he could say anymore on the matter. "...They tried to kill you..." he then continued in a muted voice, already able to feel the tears building near the corners of his eyes as he glared off into space so as not to be mistaken as directing his anger at Zim.

"Oh, Dib! Dib, no. Shhh, it's okay. I'm here now. It's okay." Zim shushed his hybrid's justifiable resentments.

Blinking the tears out of his eyes as his antennae shuddered and fell back to rest against his head, Dib nuzzled himself even further into Zim's chest habitually. "Don't leave me...A-And don't leave them..." he pleaded as he pulled his knees up protectively to cover his swollen belly, as though that act alone would expunge any remaining fears he had of abandonment.

"Shhh...I'll never leave you, Dib." Zim assured between gentle rocking movements, hoping that the steady back and forth motion would offset the hybrid's building distress.

Slowly beginning to calm down again at the lax swaying, Dib then allowed lethargic eyelids to slip partially closed. "...I'm tired..." he murmured out wearily, turning his face back into the Irken's body.

Flashing Dib a grin when he finally began to settle, Zim leaned in to kiss his brow lightly. "Well, let's eat and then we can go home to relax, okay?" he offered, not wanting to keep Dib out and about for too much longer that day.

Dib merely nodded his head in agreement, his willpower to remain awake quickly fading with each passing minute. He pillowed himself against Zim comfortably.

Watching from her own seat as Dib gradually began to nod off on them, Rose smiled warmly at the two of them before reaching to place a comforting hand on one of Dib's arms. "We'll try to keep our last stop as quick as possible so you two can get some sleep. Just try to hang in there for a little while longer though." she urged while rubbing up and down Dib's arm encouragingly.

Nodding his head once more, Dib finally allowed his eyes to close themselves completely, taking the opportunity to drift off for just a few minutes until their food arrived at the table.

Running his fingers through Dib's hair with fixed finger movements, Zim then closed his eyes and yawned as the repetitive petting motion began to make him feel sleepy as well. For him, it was always a test of patience to alleviate the other's brewing emotions, and the resulting wear and tear on his own mental stability always seemed to be the trade off for maintaining the peace in such situations.

Purring quietly at the gentle petting, it wasn't until the clatter of three plates being set down in front of them had Dib jolting back awake and pulling away from Zim's chest almost instantly, his antennae twitching like crazy for a moment and startling Zim from his own light slumber.

"Well, here you guys go." Jack smiled as he pushed two orders of French toast towards Rose and Zim, each topped with a gleaming layer of translucent, golden syrup and fresh mounds of whipped cream. Then, turning himself towards Dib, he pushed forward a dish that had Dib's eyes lighting up without fail. "And for Dib, a steak." he announced, smiling wide at the look on Dib's face. "I thought it might be a nice change from the usual." he explained with a wink towards the hybrid.

Dib smiled wide himself at the alluring cut of smoldering meat, his mouth already watering considerably from the piquant scene alone. "Wow! This is perfect, Jack!" he exclaimed, pulling the plate towards himself excitedly. He had been craving something different all day and this most definitely fit the bill in his book as it had been quite a long time now since he'd last eaten a protein of any sort.

Casting the steak a brief glance that contradicted Dib's own, Zim stuck out his tongue at it in distaste before then turning to his own dish. "What's this white stuff on top?" he asked in a partially skeptical tone, having never tried a meal such as this before. From what he knew of human "toast," he'd always assumed it to be a dry and savory food item and not one suited for being doused in syrup like this meal was.

Dib glanced over at Zim's dish as Jack took a seat with his own food. "Do you mean the whipped cream? Or the powdered sugar?" he asked, noting that there was quite a generous amount of both on the Irken's plate. "It shouldn't really matter either way. They're both something that you can eat." he assured, turning back to his own food so he could start digging in.

Zim eyed his food critically once more before then using his fork to cut off a piece and take a small bite of the breakfast confection. "WOW!" his eyes lit up with delight when a rich yet mildly sweet flavor came to meet his taste buds.

Dib smiled at Zim's reaction.

"I take it you like it then, Zim?" Jack chuckled as he watched Zim's face change from cautious to carefree.

"The only time he makes a face like that is when he really, REALLY likes something." Dib confirmed, cutting up his steak into bite-sized pieces and popping one into his mouth.

"Well, I'll take that as a compliment then. I'm glad you're enjoying the food." Jack tossed back his head with a good-natured laugh before returning to his own meal.

Zim couldn't help but purr a bit as he ate more of his food. It was so irresistibly sweet and delicious, and he couldn't recall having ever tasted anything so good during his stay on Earth. Even on his home planet, Irk, such a luscious delicacy would have NEVER been permitted to be served to someone as small and disliked as him. Such morsels were only ever reserved for the taller Irkens and the almighty Tallests, of course.

Rose laughed a bit at the look of child-like bliss currently encompassing Zim's face. "Jack makes some of the best French toast around. Don't fill up on too much of it while we're here though. We've got one last stop to make after this and you'll want to save room in your stomachs for it." she offered them a knowing smile.

"What other stop?" Zim asked amidst a mouthful of fried bread and lapse in common sense.

"Oh, you'll see, you'll see. For now though, it's a surprise." Rose spoke in a voice sprinkled with sheer intrigue, not wanting to give away what she had planned for them just yet but excited about it nonetheless.

"If you don't want us eating too much, we could probably just eat half our food now and save the rest of it for later, right Zim?" Dib proposed, his steak already nearly half complete.

"Uhh..." Zim stalled at his mate's sudden suggestion, the empty plate in front of him and powdered remains of ground confectioners sugar around his mouth shattering Dib's proposal almost immediately.

"Hmmm?" Dib turned his attention on the other's plate before then blinking up at Zim and cracking an amused smile at the mess on his face. "You're finished already? I guess you must have been really hungry. I shouldn't be so surprised though given how messy of an eater you are." he laughed jokingly, drawing away from his own plate for a moment so he could lean into the Irken and lick a spot of syrup from surface of Zim's jawline.

A/N: And there you have it for Chapter 197. Until next time~