Part 2: The Path To Redemption
Chapter 21 - Sharing Memories

(NOTE: You need to read my "Irktionary" to understand the many antennae gestures in this fic from now on.)

It didn't take much for Zim to calm down; he gave in pretty much the moment Minimoose and Talia pinned him down. Now, the irken sat down on the couch, an emotionless expression on his face as he stared listlessly at the wooden floor.

"Master, do you want a muffin?" Minimoose asked softly, keeping his distance from the deranged invader.

Without lifting his head, Zim silently nodded, holding out a hand.

Minimoose glanced nervously at the muffin, and then at his master's hand, tentatively coming closer, drawing back whenever Zim reached out further.

"Minimoose, I'm not going to hurt you," came Zim's unbelievably sad response. "Just give me the muffin."

The floating moose quickly handed Zim the muffin, flinching at the amount of pain that was in his master's eyes. Where is Zim? Where is the conceited, arrogant, maniacal Zim we know? This sad, smeet like little irken was not him. With a sad little "nya", he floated up to Zim and nuzzled his forehead affectionately.

Zim pushed the stuffed moose away, curling up into the back of the couch. "Leave me alone, Minimoose..." He tucked his head in between his legs, and didn't come back out.

Giving something that represented a defeated sigh, Minimoose glanced back sadly at his master, before floating down the hall.

Zim was all alone in the living room; the entire room, from the ceiling to the floor, was dark and dreary. Just like me... He almost felt fearful of the unsettling darkness. It felt as if a Warpatho was going to snatch him up with its tentacles at any minute. He trembled a little, gazing at the dark walls and just waiting for that to happen.

Knock, knock.

With a shrill screech, Zim's entire body jumped, attaching itself to the lamp like a frightened kitten being chased up a tree by a dog.

"Whoa – hey, hey! Zim, it's just me!" Dib exclaimed, flicking the light on. "Relax..."

Zim's fearful expression changed to one of pure hate, as he slowly slid down the lamp post, and onto the couch. "What do you want, human? Haven't you crushed me enough for one day?"

Dib felt a flicker of regret. "Zim, I'm sorry. I had no idea you used to have a family! ….And a mother that died.."

"Of course you assumed I didn't!" Zim snapped, "because I have no heart!"

"Listen to me!" Dib yelled, shaking Zim by the shoulders. "Can you blame me for thinking that? You always said, 'invaders need no one', so how was I supposed to think you had a family with that knowledge?"

Zim hissed through his teeth. "Yes, well now you know! I had a Mameen and she died! I had a home, it was destroyed! I had a life, IT WAS DESTROYED!" he screamed, looking ready to tear Dib apart once more. "EVERYTHING WAS DESTROYED!" He suddenly tore a lamp from its socket and went to hurl it at Dib, who promptly ducked out of the way of the passing threat.

At the same time, GIR had chosen this moment to come into the living room. "Mas-" He was cut off as the lamp crashed into him, sending him reeling backwards into the wall.

Immediately, coming to and out of his rage, a hand flew to Zim's mouth, when he stared, horrified at what he had done. "G-GIR-!"

Shaking, and probably in renewed pain, GIR stumbled out of the room, crying.

"No, wait-! GIR, I didn't mean-...it..." Zim whispered, his hands falling helplessly to his sides as he sat on the couch. "You better leave, human... I'm dangerous right now.."

Dib glanced worriedly at the doorway, hoping the little SIR was alright. "Y-you aren't dangerous, Zim... You're just upset. It's a common emotion that people get when something is really bothering them."

"Yes, well, when an irken gets upset it can be very dangerous." Zim rubbed his eyes, blinking as something was pushed into his lap: the photo album. "What are you doing? I'm not looking in that; I'd rather not be slapped again."

"I won't slap you... Read the paragraph under the first page."

Muttering quiet irken profanities, Zim flipped the book open, scanning the paragraph.

My mother: even as sick as she is, she keeps my spirits up; she's my will to go on. It doesn't matter to me that I have no friends, just as long as I have her it'll be fine. I don't really know why she's so sick, but I'm sure Daddy can fix her!...Right? She used to be so strong, but it seems like she just keeps getting sicker. I hope she's better before my birthday.

Zim looked up from the page. "What was wrong with your mother?"

"Leukemia," Dib whispered, his hair falling forward. "She was sick with leukemia."

"Lu-ke-meiaaa..? Why is it your stupid earth illnesses are so hard to pronounce? And why do you seem to have so many?" Zim began counting on his fingers, "Irkens only have a few illnesses; the deadliest being Irken Calosis."

"Leukemia," Dib went on, speaking in a loud tone to shut Zim up, "is a type of cancer in the blood."

"Cancer? Ah yes, I heard of that." Zim waved a wrist dismissively, "we were taught about this 'cancer' in science class. So, your mother had it, why didn't your filthy earth hospital cure her?"

Dib's fists clenched as he went on, "if you listened at all in class, Zim, you would have heard that cancer can be stopped until it reaches a certain point: when it spreads to other parts of the body. She soon developed lung cancer as well."

Zim's mouth made a small and surprised "o", but he kept quiet.

"I was only around five at the time; I had no idea that she was so sick. Dad only said she had a very bad cold - and me being only a toddler and stupidly gullible and oblivious – I believed him." He looked up at Zim. "Everyone was different before my mother's death."

"Even your scary, dangerous little sister?"

Dib breathed out, letting his hands fall to his lap. "Especially her. She was a sweet..and innocent little girl; she wore all the dresses that Talia is wearing now."

Zim still seemed confused. Why was it that the death of someone affected you so much that you'd actually change who you were? "But I don't understand it!" he exclaimed, "just because your female parental unit died, you all changed? Death happens all the time, Dib! You can't just change who you are because it happens."

Dib sighed. I knew he wouldn't understand. "It isn't something you can control, Zim. Didn't you change a little when that...Mala girl..of yours died?" The room fell deathly silent for a minute, and Zim just gazed down at the ground.

"...Well..." He sighed, turning his head over the arm rest of the couch and looking at the wall.

"That...Mala, was she your...mother?"

It seemed to take an eternity for Zim to respond, so Dib just figured that he didn't want to answer the question, and went to get up-

"...Not biologically."

"Huh?" Dib turned to him.

"She wasn't my mother biologically, but I still called her 'Mameen'; which is irken for mother. When I was born from a birthing pod, I was much smaller than the average irken, and was supposed to be terminated the very next day. Right before I was led out to termination, an older female irken stopped the irkens in their tracks, grabbing onto their hands and pleading that she could take the defective smeet instead. The Tallest agreed to the request since it was one of their top elite soldiers that was asking for this, and she had not yet been given the rights to have a smeet herself.
She took me back with her to her home; it was an old fashioned little house that we both lived in for the next few years. There she raised me with opposite knowledge that normal smeets are taught in the military facilities. She taught me that everyone deserved a chance, taught me to express emotions, rather then teaching me to forget them, and told me there was no such thing as a defective. Eventually, I was comfortable enough with her that I called her Mameen, and we really did become like a Mameen and smeet. Despite that we were not biologically related, we still shared that same bond that a mother and...son share."

Dib just seemed frozen to his seat, unable to believe Zim was actually being so open with him. "B-but...if you had been taught to love and give a chance, why did you turn out to be so..." He didn't know how to finish that sentence without hurting the vulnerable alien. Luckily, Zim finished for him.

"So cruel? Heartless? Cold and mean? I know you well enough to see that's what you wanted to say, human, but I can understand your curiosity. After my Mameen's death, I was forced into what she had struggled all those years to protect me from: invader training. She knew I wanted to be an invader, but was determined to train me herself so I wouldn't have to go through the brutality others are forced into."

"Oh, come on? How bad can it be?"

Zim's eyes flickered in cold anger, as he glowered at the human. "How bad can it be? Irk itself is known in the universe as nothing but a military planet and a torture chamber. There is a reason irkens are the most hated race in all the galaxies, Dib. Without my Mameen's influence and support, I was forced under the influence of other irkens; they trained young innocent little smeets to be nothing but living emotionless war machines, and they don't care how they train them." He swallowed hard. "My body has far more deep and swelled scars than the smeet's does, and each one of them is a terrible reminder of the worst time of my life in that living...hell.
Punishments could vary depending on the act of treason; it could vary between a severe and nearly fatal beating, to torture by water, or...t-to the worst one:...the Warpatho."

Dib quirked an eyebrow. "The war-what?"

"A Warpatho, Dib, is the worst nightmare in all of the galaxy – the universe."

"Oh pff, I think you're overreacting, space boy."

Face vacant and emotionless, a screen extended from Zim's pak and in front of the human. "Oh...am I?"

On the screen, was a tiny little green creature, a smeet, clearly, in front of this giant black mass at the back of a cell.

A wet, spiny black tentacle flopped out from under the mass, and in front of the child. The tentacle itself was at least three times bigger than the smeet, and suddenly the mass stood up.

"Sssso, another little ssssssmeet, I ssssee..." the monster hissed softly, mockingly caressing the terrified child with one of its tentacles. "Not bad, for a ssssssmeet.. Ssstomach plenty big enough to harbour my young.."

Dib looked over at Zim, who was keeping his eyes away from the screen, looking like he was about to vomit.

The smeet was screaming and crying, calling for it's Mameen over and over again, and desperately trying to claw away from the restraints that rooted it firmly into the ground.

"Hold ssstill, irken..." the beast hissed, drawing the frightened child towards it with a tentacle. "It will hurt mooore if you keep thrassshing..."

Within mere moments, Dib was desperately swallowing bile, and trying to keep the vomit down. A shrill scream of agony ripped through the entire cell, blood spurting and dripping crudely down the walls. Gagging sounds were heard, and more blood exploded from somewhere on the screen. From over the screeches, Dib could make out the monster's pleasured laugh, as well as one from an irken above the cell.

Finally, Dib leaned over the side of the couch, heaving out his stomach contents, as Zim just sat there on the couch, pale white and shaking.

Wiping the remaining water from his face, Dib turned to Zim, holding his stomach and mouth, disgusted and terrified beyond belief. "Oh...oh my...go...go..."

Zim only nodded grimly, dispelling the horrid images, and letting the room return to its quiet and peaceful state.

"Z-Z-Zim...that's what...you have nightmares about?"

Swallowing hard, his eyes glistening a little, the irken stared hard at the wall, and trying to regain control of his erratic breathing. "Uh-huh..." He closed his eyes tight. "Except, they never seem to just go after me. For some reason, GIR and Talia always seem to be dragged into the nightmare. It doesn't matter how much I kick and scream, plead and struggle...I can never save them."

Suddenly, an overwhelming guilt churned in Dib's stomach. Memories of what he had said to Zim and how he had acted that night came back. No wonder Zim finally slipped off the edge.. Those nightmares...they were more than nightmares.. It was his own gruesome past he was dreaming about.

"The dreams always start so well, so amazing. I'd wake up and find myself back at my old home, with my mother, BELL, and GIR.. We could be all laughing and chasing each other, playing or just being together as the family we used to be...and suddenly, I'll find myself face to face with that nightmare once more." Shamelessly, he admitted, "I am now...terrified to go back to sleep ever again. These dreams of my past are constantly haunting me. It doesn't matter what the dream is like in the beginning, it always ends in the exact same way.
Night after night, I find myself going out into your bedroom to make sure you and the smeet are still there. Sometimes, I've even pull GIR up into the bed, thinking that he'd also be snatched away at any moment. It just doesn't make sense why these nightmares would suddenly happen all of a sudden. I'm almost tempted to find Tin-tin and sleep with him!" He laughed, bitterly.

Dib vaguely recognized that name. "Tin-tin?"

"A stuffed robot that Mameen gave to me when I was a smeet; it stopped all the bad dreams I had." He reached into his pak, rummaging in it for a while, before pulling out a worn and dirty plush robot...that looked uncannily like GIR! That was the robot Dib had seen Zim hand to Mala on the screen. "I don't know why I kept this old robot...it was the last thing I had of my mother. I haven't taken it out of my pak since I was a smeet."

Dib was quiet, fingering the worn little antenna on the stuffed robot's head. He reached into the busted cardboard box Zim had been trying to drag in, and pulled something out, throwing it onto Zim's lap.

Very perplexed, Zim held the raggy thing up. It was a blanket..or a towel...could be a rag of some kind, and it was completely tattered and gross. "...Ew," he said, screwing up his face, "it smells like you.."

Dib just rolled his eyes. "That's my old baby blanket.. My mom made it for me when I was only about two years old. "She stitched a picture of an alien on it.

Zim held up the blanket and read the word printed on the front: "believe...in what?"

"Even as two, I was always trying to find aliens and Big foot and such, " he chuckled. "She was the only one that supported me. She told me to believe in everything, whatever I wanted to. She supported me in my love for the paranormal, and she often came with me to hunt for ghost bees and stuff. She told me not to listen to anything my father said; she said that none of my dreams were stupid and she'd always support me." He sighed. "After her death, I had no supporters, no friends... and for the first time, it bothered me. Without my mother, I really felt alone. I was miserable, and felt like I had no one to relate to. I was an outcast, I had no friends, people always laughed at me. It felt like my own race was mocking me!" To his chagrin, Zim chuckled. "What's so funny?"

"You just described my entire life, Dib!" Zim looked at the human. "You think that I wasn't an outcast? I was the size of a PEA compared to other smeets! I almost destroyed my own planet!" His eyes narrowed. "But to be honest, I wish that I haddestroyed it.." He looked at the human, suddenly seeing him in a different light. "I never realized enemies could be so similar."

Dib crooked a grin. "Yeah..me too." He sighed. "And, for the record, I'm sorry-"

Zim held up a hand to shush him. "Stop. There is no need to dwell on the past; we have a brand new beginning ahead of us now. We should try to make some kind of peace since we'll be teamed up and against Irk."

"That's a good idea, Zim. Our constant squabbles and fights aren't going to get us anywhere." He smirked, "but can we still insult each other whenever we want?"

Zim grinned back, mischief twinkling in his eye. "I was going to, anyways."

"So what do we do? Shake hands?"

"No. I have a better idea." Zim sat beside the human, his antennae briefly tapped the edge of Dib's hair, and his fingertips touched the human's.

Totally confused, Dib looked up to where Zim's antennae was on his hair. "What are you doing?"

The irken chuckled as he drew his antennae back, standing up and beginning to walk out of the room. "You should really learn more about the Irken language." With that, he closed the door.

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(With request I uploaded the next chapter. :D)