A/N: Sorry for the long wait! Hopefully this chapter is worth it :3 And it's a lot longer too, like I promised! :D (The Internet was out for 2 hours today before my lab. I had absolutely nothing else to do XD). For those of you who also read Extraterrestrial, I've been updating that too. Enjoy!

Chapter 8:

F to R

Gir was off his rocker when Zim finally came home; the little robot tackled the alien and wailed about how lonely he'd been.

"ENOUGH, Gir," exclaimed Zim, pushing the robot away. "Leave me alone. I have much to think about."

"We gonna talk about destroying Dib again?" Gir asked with glee.

"Not tonight, Gir. I have spent the entirety of the day with the Dibstink's little sister. I now wonder if that was such a wise move."

Gir began to jump up and down excitedly. "Ooooooooooh-ee, Masta spend the WHOOOOLE day out with the Gaz-girl! Girlfriend is PREEEEETTY! When's the wedding? OOH! Do I get to wear a tuxedooo?"

"No, Gir, there is to be no talk of weddings or prettiness!" Zim cried, strange heat rising to his cheeks.

"Aww, I'd look so good in a tuxedo…"

The little robot followed his master down into the secret base, where Zim immediately examined his plans for Operation ZAGF.

"I do not understand," he muttered to himself. "What could have possibly gone wrong? My plan was foolproof!"

"What da Masta talkin' 'bout?" Gir inquired.

"I appear to have become infected with some sort of earth sickness brought about by the female Gaz. COMPUTER! Analysis!"

"Ugh," grumbled the computer, shining Zim with a green light. "Symptoms: flushed face, scattered thinking, shortness of breath, preoccupation with the female Gaz… overall heightened state of arousal. Diagnosis: Infatuation."

"Infatuation!" exclaimed Zim. "What is THAT? It must be horrible! I don't feel like myself at all!"

The computer laughed. "Why don't you go ask her about it? She should know."

"And let her in on the secret that the infallible Zim contracted a deadly earthen virus? FOOLISH COMPUTERRR!"

"My analysis does not conclude it to be deadly."

"Your analysis-schemalysis!" Zim snapped. "I wish to be left ALOOONE!"

The computer gladly shut down, and Gir did cartwheels along the floor. "I like snooow!" he cried.

"GIR! Leave me! The… Scary Monkey Show is on!"

Gir gasped in delight and then hurried, screaming, up to the surface. Zim sat in his chair by his plans and sighed. He wondered what the Gaz-human was doing right now. He'd felt strangely reluctant to leave when he finally took her home, but he rather desired avoiding a confrontation with the Dib at that time.

He felt so odd. Instead of thinking about his plans, all he could focus on was the way the female's purple hair curled around her face. Thoughts of universal conquest were thwarted by thoughts of the light in her amber eyes when she laughed. He thought about the things she'd told him, and was surprised he had even listened. Then he remembered her sadness in the clothing store, and the tears she'd cried.

The tears. Those shook him up more than anything. And he didn't understand at all. Had he done something? He couldn't think he had. But what else could it be? Perhaps relating somehow to the Dib? But what had he done? He'd studied humans long enough to know they did not simply burst into tears without cause. And such a shattering display of vulnerability… yet Zim hadn't used it to his advantage—in fact, he'd been terrified of it.

"Tell me what is wrong so I might fix it and stop this senseless crying!"

Why had he been so unnerved by it? Why hadn't he laughed? And for that matter, why wasn't he laughing now? Why was he still unnerved?

And then he remembered the conversation they'd had afterward, at lunch. The Gaz clearly believed humans were superior to Irkens… yet it was not a possibility. The earth girl was mistaken, of course. But he himself had admitted the humans were superior, biologically. "On this planet at least," he'd said, "you humans may have me beat biologically…"


"No!" he cried aloud. "There are none more superior to the Irken race. The—the earth-girl is trying to trick me!"

Yet even as he said it, his antennae fell back and his shoulders slumped.

Who was this foolish earth girl, anyway, that she could make him so confused? That she could make him feel doubt! He, doubt the Irken race? It was unthinkable! It was wrong! But he couldn't shake that awful feeling—the feeling that he'd… been lied to… by his Tallest.

Perhaps it was his fault somehow. No, he was faultless. He looked at his frame. He'd made himself taller to blend in with the indigenous life… He'd thought it an impossibility too, at the time. He had gone from one of the shortest in the Empire to this. And being quite so tall, he couldn't bring himself to show himself to his Tallest. It would be a mark against them. A betrayal. Who was he to betray his Tallest?

He groaned and let his head fall onto the plans.

"Gaz! Where have you been?"

She cringed at the sound of Dib's voice, and turned to look out the door. Zim was already gone. Glad to be rid of me, she thought as her brother pounded into the entry.

"Are you okay, Gaz? It's one in the morning… where on earth have you been?"

She looked through him, as if he wasn't there, and headed up to her bedroom.

"Gaz? Gaz! Answer me! Where have you been?"

Still she did not respond. She did not feel the need to dignify him with acknowledgement. She reached the stairs and he grabbed her wrist. Her eyes filled with hate, but she did not look at him as she tugged at her arm.

"You're not going anywhere," he said. "Not until you've told me where you've been all day."

Though she despised him for it, he was too strong and she too weak. She'd never get away while he held her here. "It's not any of your business," she hissed. "You're not my father."

"No, but I am your brother."

"Ha! Some brother you are."

He sighed. "I know I've been… kind of a dick to you lately."

She snorted.

"No, really, listen. I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said this morning, and I definitely didn't intend to hurt you. You have to see it from my perspective, Gaz—you were coming after me with basically a knife. Of course I'm going to run away and call you crazy."

She shook her head, smiling bitterly. "No, you idiot. That's when you stand still and let me pound on you. What could I honestly do to hurt you? I'm clearly not even strong enough to get away."

"I'm sorry, okay? I really am. You're my sister, I care about you, but sometimes I take you for granted. Like you'll still love me even if I'm an asshole, just because I'm your brother. But I know it doesn't work like that."

"No. No, it doesn't."

"I want to make it up to you somehow. But damn it, Gaz, will you please look at me?"

"I don't want to talk to you," she murmured quietly. "Could you let me go? …Please?"

He hesitated, then, with another sigh, loosened his grip. She zipped up the stairs and slammed the door shut behind her. Dib shook his head and sank onto the step, holding his head in his hands.

Soon, he thought. As soon as I kill Zim, it'll all be over, and I can focus on being a proper brother and a good boyfriend. Everything will be better.

As soon as I… kill Zim.

Gaz got undressed and slid into her bed, and though she was exhausted, she couldn't sleep. Today had been so bizarre. She really hung out with Zim all day. After she stopped gaming, they grabbed dinner and bummed around the mall until eight, when they closed it. They then went to his place and watched TV until about fifteen minutes ago.

She couldn't remember the last time she'd had companionship, and for so long as an entire day. And with Zim, of all people. But it hadn't been nearly as bad as she would've expected. He was surprisingly easy to be around. If she didn't feel like talking, he'd actually be quiet. Sometimes he made her laugh. She couldn't remember the last time she'd really laughed like that. As she lay in bed, thinking about the day, she held a pillow to her chest and sighed.

For a really crappy day, it had been a pretty good day.

Zim looked hard at the plans laid out before him. He tapped his finger against his mouth, considering many variations and possibilities to his plan. Now that he had been infected, things would have to take a drastic turn. Who knew how long it would be before he succumbed completely to the deadly symptoms? He needed to find a cure.

He spent the next few hours thoroughly researching this 'infatuation,' as it were called. According to the Internet, it was a kind of sickness that appeared at random and consumed the individual. No one was immune to it, and there were few solutions that worked. The only thing that seemed to work without fail, and without resulting in some terrifying condition called "heartbreak," was having the infatuation returned by another. This obviously meant that the carrier of the disease had to infect another human, who then had to infect the original human again. From what Zim could scrounge from this analysis, infatuation was a horrid disease, as the only cure was to neverendingly infect and be reinfected by the object of the infatuation. Doing so resulted in what appeared to be very pleasant sensations, and humans regarded the infection of their infector to be a very positive experience. And yet it sounded so dangerous!

"What is wrong with humans," he wondered, "that they toy with—and seek out, and enjoy!—such a terrible disease as this! And to think that I, ZIM, was infected! Arrgh! What to do!"

As he sat there brooding, a loud "WEEEEEEEEEE!" came echoing through the lab.

"GIR!" he shouted, as the little robot fell from a crevice in the ceiling and onto the floor. "I thought I told you to leave me alone!"

"But Masta, it's time for school!" The robot began to dance happily. "Schooly schooly schooly school!"

"Eh?" Zim checked the clock. "Gir! School does not start for another hour!"

"Aww, but Masta gotta go pick up girlfriend!"

"She's not my—" But he stopped. He'd encountered this topic in his research. Upon looking up ways to 'reinfect' his infector—the Gaz, in his case—he'd come across many how-to articles as well as some frightening website called Cosmopolitan. An idea hit him; he snapped his fingers. "It's GENIUS!"

Reinvigorated, he began to erase and rewrite parts of his plan, eventually scrapping it for an entirely new one. He made to write the words Operation ZAGF 2, when Gir bumped up beside him as he was writing the 2, making the F and the 2 mold together into what looked like an R.

"GIR!" he yelled, but stopped. Operation ZAGR, it said. Zim-and-Gaz… Romance? He smiled. "IT'S PERFECT!"

"Girlfriend waiting!"

"What do you mean?" he demanded. "I haven't called her!"

The robot lowered his lids and grinned. "No problem," he said, holding up the phone. "I texted her." He pulled at an invisible collar at his neck, blew on his knuckles, and then rubbed them against his shoulder.

"Gir! You did something not worthless!"

"I know," said the robot, "I'm a total boss."

Zim looked at the clock. "Great ball of Irk! I'm going to be late!" He hurried above and made to put on his disguise, when he eyed the shopping bag sitting by the couch. He considered it, and then put on jeans and a t-shirt and shoes. To Gir he said, "My new plan, Gir; it's AMAZING! Instead of merely befriending the Dibsister, I shall both befriend her and ward off this deadly infatuation!"

"But how?" asked the robot.

"It's simple!" Zim raised his arm, pointing at the sky. "I shall woo her!"