I decided to re-write this story yet again on a whim. I just got done writing another angsty/tragic story that I'm going to upload soon and I was still kind of in that frame of mind to write, so I decided to tackle this story again. And boy did it need some changes. The song the story is based on is included at the bottom of the page.
If Only Tears Could Bring You Back
The tiny android was sprawled across the floor, laying beside his master and crying quietly. For the first time ever, GIR actually wept over something worth crying about. Normally when the little robot got upset, there was hours-long screeching involved that could put any siren to shame. But this time was very different – these were tears of genuine sadness and GIR didn't make a peep beyond some whimpering. Even Zim's mindless robot understood that what was going on was very grave.
Zim, always full of vigor and ambition, was no longer the bright-eyed, over-confident invader he had been just a couple of weeks before. In fact, he was barely clinging to life. Something, somewhere, had gone terribly wrong, leaving Zim a disease-stricken husk of his former self. In fact, "disease-stricken" is kind of an understatement – the young alien was dying at a rapid pace and his robot servant not only had no idea how to help, there was nothing that could be done anyway. GIR would occasionally nudge his master and try to rouse him. "Master? Master? Why don't you get up, master?"
"I... can't, GIR."
Even Zim was shocked when the robot asked what to do for him. He didn't think GIR had the capacity to have such thought processes, or care about anything other than food, for that matter. "Just... stay here with me, GIR." To hope that GIR would suddenly start following directions was too much to hope for as far as Zim was concerned, so he asked his robot servant to do something he figured GIR could handle.
This malady ravaging Zim's body certainly didn't just happen out of nowhere. There is an explanation as to why this had all happened, and it has to do with Irken genetics. Each Irken is born with a latent virus that must be vaccinated against before symptoms begin showing, and the virus is nothing to be toyed with either. Much like the animal-borne illness we know as rabies, once an Irken begins showing signs of this alien sickness, it's too late to do anything for them. Unfortunately for Zim, he never received preventative treatment for this condition before he left for Earth. For a while, the plucky alien felt completely fine, or at least he felt more or less normal. A couple of years into his mission, though, he began feeling "off" and ignored it. He couldn't let a couple aches and pains stop him, right? He had a job to do! But it wasn't long before Zim started deteriorating more quickly and it soon made him too sick to even manage to get to school. Even Zim knew something was terribly wrong by then and he sought advice from his computer. He had difficulty comprehending his computer's diagnosis because of what the virus was already doing to his brain and it was only forty-eight hours after that diagnosis that he collapsed in the middle of his living room, too weak and sick to move.
Dib, being the obsessive creature that he is, immediately took notice of Zim's extended absence. It was normal for Zim to miss a day of class here and there to plot his next evil scheme, but he'd been gone almost a week. Had he returned to his home planet? After school one day, Dib snuck out to Zim's base to see if it was still there and, if so, to snoop around. Surely, if Zim was in the middle of concocting some new plan, it must have been pretty diabolical if he'd spent a week working on it. Dib was both surprised and suspicious when the base's defenses didn't activate and the front door was open. He pushed the door open and looked in the house quietly to see his nemesis laying in a heap on the floor of his living room. Dib actually got worried for a moment when he saw Zim motionless on the floor with GIR huddled beside him in an equal state of stillness. Dib entered the house and knelt down beside the two of them.
"What happened, GIR?"
"Master... he don't move..."
Dib looked the alien over for injuries, but there were none that he could see. The boy's eyes got wide when he really took a good look at Zim; he was in horrible condition, couldn't move and could barely speak or breathe. Dib had never seen anyone so sick before. Zim opened his eyes just a little bit after hearing voices around him – he wasn't wearing his disguise.
"...Dib? Why... why are you here?" It was strange hearing Zim call Dib by his name instead of one of his many colorful insults. If Zim didn't have it in him to call Dib names, he must have really been in bad shape.
"You haven't been to school in a week and I wanted to know why."
He looked into what he could see of Zim's eyes and saw two things he'd never seen before: defeat and fear. That zealous glow that always burned so bright in the alien's eyes had all but faded away into pools of lifeless gray. It actually disturbed Dib to see Zim in such a bad way, even if he did hate the alien's guts. It crossed Dib's mind that he could have made this whole situation work out in his favor – he could have called the authorities right then and had Zim turned over to the FBI; he could have claimed his glory by finally irrefutably proving the existence of alien life; he could have finally had the pleasure of seeing Zim dissected by scientists like he'd been dreaming of for so long. And he was certainly tempted to take advantage of what was happening, but even Dib couldn't stoop so low as to strike when Zim was so helpless. He didn't know why because Zim was basically right there for him on a silver platter and he couldn't defend himself at all, but the boy just didn't feel right when Zim was at such an unfair disadvantage. Instead, he gently lifted Zim up and laid him down on the couch to make the alien comfortable and to get a better look at him. Zim's breathing was shallow, his antennae drooped over his head like wilted flowers and his skin was a sickly off-white color. He looked like death. Dib went down into the lower part of Zim's base to try and get information out of the computer so he could, believe it or not, try to help.
"Computer, what's wrong with Zim? Why is he so sick?"
"The master is indisposed due to an untreated Irken virus."
"What can I do to help him?"
"Nothing can be done. Once symptoms manifest, the Irken will pass away within a few days of symptom onset."
Zim was facing an unstoppable death and Dib was completely powerless to help him. He certainly couldn't take his adversary to a human facility because it'd be all too obvious that he wasn't human. There was no Irken antidote that the computer could create or advise how to make. Nothing. For the first time since he saw Zim show up in class, Dib wanted Zim to live. He wasn't totally sure why because he'd been trying to kill Zim or get him killed since the day they met, but he had to do something. Zim's presence had given Dib's life greater meaning – he gave Dib something to really strive for that he was passionate about, and the young boy cherished that relationship, crazy as it sounds.
So that was it. Dib could do absolutely nothing but stand by and watch his opponent die. Even if he couldn't cure the alien, he refused to leave Zim's side once he'd come back to the living room. He knelt down beside Zim and held his hand. Any other time, Dib would have balked at doing something like that, but it just happened. It felt right, and all he knew was that he needed to comfort Zim. The alien looked at him.
"There's... nothing I can do to help you, is there?" Dib asked in a trembling voice.
"No. But why... are you being so nice... to me?" Zim could hardly speak. Dib was very unaccustomed to Zim talking in any tone other than screaming.
"Because I... don't want this to happen." Dib actually got a little teary-eyed and tried to hide it.
Zim weakly rested his hand on Dib's. "Will you... stay with me? I don't... want to... be alone."
Dib nodded. He sat down beside the couch and rested his head against Zim. Never would either of them have ever dreamed they'd be acting like this toward one another, but it apparently took a terminal illness to bring the two enemies to a truce. Zim closed his eyes and Dib constantly watched the alien's chest for movement to make sure he was still breathing. All this time, GIR was curled up against Zim's shoulder with tears in his eyes and never said a word.
It had been a whole day since Dib discovered Zim in his incapacitated state, and he never left the alien's side for those twenty-four hours. During that time, Zim continued to get worse, and GIR seemed to sense it. The little robot nestled himself between Zim and the back of the couch and just stayed there. It became evident to Dib that his alien foe didn't have much time left and he began to panic a little, but tried his best not to show it. He did what he could to make Zim as comfortable as possible while trying not to hurt him in his delicate state. Yes, Dib was actually concerned about his enemy's comfort and he found it difficult to even look at the dying alien because he never thought Zim would be reduced to such weakness. It was honestly kind of frightening to Dib because he'd never seen anyone – human or otherwise – die. Zim's voice was faint and he started to mumble something – the first sound he'd made in several hours.
"Zim? Are you awake?" the boy asked nervously.
Zim didn't speak right away, but he managed to open his eyes a little bit.
"I didn't know... if you were still here. I... couldn't... see you." Zim said this while appearing to look directly at Dib. This wasn't a good sign; Zim had reached the point in the dying process where he'd lost his vision, which meant that the rest of him would be following suit very soon.
"Zim... please, don't go..." The young boy cried. As much as he loathed Zim, it truly broke his heart to watch the alien die. His hands started to shake.
"Thank you... for staying... with me." Zim whispered and managed a very weak smile. "Please... take.. care of GIR... for me..."
"Yes, anything." Dib's glasses were clouded from crying and he did his best to try and hide his emotions because he wasn't ready to show them. He wasn't ready to admit that he was mourning the loss of his greatest enemy. In a way, Dib was angry that he wasn't the one responsible for Zim's demise. He also hated that, once Zim was gone, he wouldn't have much to strive for in regard to paranormal research. No more spying on Zim, no more thwarting his plans, no more trying to reveal his true identity to the public. All of this felt exhilarating to Dib; it made him feel like he was really making a difference in the world and he knew it wouldn't be the same without Zim. That wasn't the only reason, though – he just didn't want to see Zim die at all. Even if he was a disgusting alien invader, he didn't deserve this.
Zim closed his eyes and took a couple more slow breaths, and then he just stopped moving altogether. His chest didn't rise again. The tenacious little alien had finally lost his battle with his terminal illness and the whole time Dib was there, he never once let go of Zim's hand. The boy pressed his face against Zim's uniform and just cried – he couldn't believe Zim was gone or that it was affecting him this much or in this way. While Dib always knew that the troublesome alien would meet his end on Earth (especially if Dib had anything to do with it), he never thought it would have ended like this. He also never thought it would hurt so much to lose his opponent and it was a rather peculiar mix of feelings. On one hand, the planet was now safe from whatever evil Zim might have wrought upon it in the future, but on the other hand, Dib felt alone. He felt very alone. Again.
Zim was both a friend and an enemy to Dib and he never really considered how much Zim meant to him until after he was gone.
How will I start
Tomorrow without you here
Who's heart will guide me
When all the answers disappear
Is it too late
Are you too far gone to stay
This one's forever
Should never have to go away
What will I do
You know I'm only half without you
How will I make it through
If only tears could bring you back to me
If only love could find a way
What I would do, what I would give
If you returned to me someday
If my tears could bring you back to me
I'd cry you an ocean
If you'd sail on home again
Waves of emotion
Will carry you, I know they can
Just love will guide you
And your heart will chart the course
Soon you'll be drifting
Into the arms of your true north
Look in my eyes
And you will see a million tears have gone by
And still they're not dry
I hold you close
And shout the words I only whispered before
For one more chance, for one last dance
There's not a thing I would not endure
Song credits: "If Only Tears Could Bring You Back" by the Midnight Sons.
Second updated story published: 6-09-16
First updated story published: 7-07-09
Original story published: 2-22-02
Author's notes: I can't believe I re-wrote this yet again. Not sure why I did - I just happened to open the story file on my computer to read it and went, "Dear lord this is terrible" and gave it a makeover. Thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to read and/or review this!