Author's Note: Well... This is weird... I don't know where this came from. I like it, though. This is an Alternate Universe fic, set several years in the future, after the Irkens have taken over the human race and Zim reigns over Earth. It's Zim/Dib slash. Don't like? Don't read. If you feel that Dib and Zim make an awful, unrealistic couple, or if you're just plain homophobic, don't read. I'm not forcing you. This is my fanfic, and I don't really care if you hate it. Constructive criticism and praise are both welcomed, however.

Strange Path Leads Me

"Why did you always fight me?" Zim demanded. "I never understood. Why did you risk your life for a planet that doesn't care about you?

Dib didn't answer. He was on his knees, both hands bound behind his back. His mind was numb, still trying to process the fact that he was captured. After fighting Zim since he was ten -- no, you really couldn't count those play-battles in the first two years... -- seriously fighting Zim since he was twelve, four years, six since Zim first came to Earth... And he'd been captured on a stupid supply run? It was preposterous! It was stupid! Idiotic! Laughable! It also happened to be true.

Zim's aliens had conquered Earth four years ago. What had made the leaders of Zim's race change their minds about the tiny, insignificant planet? Two words: Platform Shoes. It was almost funny, but Dib wasn't laughing. He'd laughed at first, when Zim had seen some girls at Skool wearing the fashion blunders and become slack-jawed. He'd stopped laughing about the time the alien spacefleet had arrived. And Zim... smirking smugly as most of the human population had been blasted into oblivion. Only a small amount had been left to serve as slaves for the... the... the Whatever Empire. Six years and while Dib had learned all sorts of things -- how speed of light spacetravel was possible, how to eat spaghetti in zero- gravity, and other such useful things -- he still hadn't learned the name of Zim's species.

But he, Dib Membrane, son of the great scientist, Dr. Membrane, refused to be tamed like some beast and become a slave of those stupid aliens! Instead, he led the proud and defiant resistance that would one day reclaim Earth and take their revenge on the alien scum!

Though, to tell the truth, things weren't looking too good, even from Dib's biased perspective.

Who was he trying to kid, anyways? Proud and defiant? Right. Two members didn't really count as a proud and defiant resistance, especially when one of them was too busy playing her GameSlave Two to really care about humanity's condition, much less actually help her brother in saving the world. And reclaiming the planet? What was there left to claim, except the shells of old buildings, dusty memories, and a rust-colored sky?

"Fine. I give up." Dib said aloud.

Zim looked puzzled, first at this odd answer to his previous question, then at the utterly defeated tone in Dib's voice. He quickly hid his confusion behind a contemptuous smirk. "It's too late for that, Dib- Stinkbeast! You should have groveled for mercy earlier!" he paused to consider. "Though I might maybe possibly go easy on you if you grovel for me now."

Dib rolled his eyes. The platform shoes that Zim had received from his leaders -- the Maulist something, Dib hadn't been in the best range of hearing at the time -- had really gone to his head, making him more egotistical than he already had been. "I'm not going to grovel, Zim." Dib said plainly.

Zim's eyes flashed dangerously. "Why not?"

Dib shrugged, trying to look casual, despite his bound and kneeling form. "I don't want to. I'd rather keep intact what dignity and pride I have left. Okay?"

"No, not okay!" Zim snapped. "You don't have a choice! I am Supreme Ruler of this stupid stinkbeast world!" He gave me another deathglare. "Stupid, stupid worm baby... Just answer my question."

"Question?" Dib blinked his wide eyes innocently up at Zim.

"You weren't listening were you?" Zim asked dryly.

"Not particularly."

Zim growled in frustration and repeated his question. "Why did you fight me when you knew you couldn't win? Why did you keep on trying even though no one even liked you or appreciated you efforts?"

"No one liked you but you kept on trying, didn't you?" Dim countered. "What about you? Why'd you keep trying? They sent you to some random planet on the edge of the universe to get you out of their hair, thinking you would die before you even got there! Why'd you keep trying?"

"Shows what you know!" Zim scoffed. "It was a top-secret mission!"

"Is that what you really think? That's why they sent you in a junk spaceship with a junk robot to a junk planet with junk people! Right?"

"Gir's not junk... He'd advanced..." Zim protested lamely.

"Which perfectly explains his obsession with tacos, slushies, and that stupid monkey."

"He just doesn't want you to suspect that he's really a super war- weapon robot-thing!"

"Then why are you defending him? If that were true, you would want me to continue to believe he was just a stupid robot-dog. Admit it, you're in denial."

"I'm not in any of your stupid human dee-nye-all! So just shut up! I'm asking the questions, not you! Answer me now: Why didn't you just give up?" Zim was bordering on hysteria by now.

"Why do you want to know, anyways? Shouldn't you be pumping me for information on my plans to overthrow your tyranny?" Dib asked.

"I don't care about your plans! They wouldn't have worked anyways. I just want to know why you fought! Tell me now or I'll drown you in some conveniently place pool of your yucky, stinky water!"

"Fine." Dib said calmly, Zim's threats not seeming to have any effect on him. "I fought for the same reasons as you. I was in denial. Stupid, idiotic denial... I thought that if I tried hard enough, I could save the world, make them notice you, make them notice me."

"But it didn't work." Zim said bluntly.

Dib shrugged. "Yours became reality, mine didn't. Only one of us could have had our little fantasies become reality. It's not like they could co-exist. I couldn't save the world and be hero while at the same time you conquered our world and got a growth spurt."

"Mine didn't come true." Zim replied, determined to be just as bitter as Dib. "You think they respect me because they let me wear your tall human shoes. Ha! They could never respect me. They mock me. They pity me. I, the great Zim of the Ir--- of my alien race, am nothing more than a joke among my own people!"

"They don't respect you? I thought you were some kind of celebrity!" Dib exclaimed. He'd been under the impression that after the fall of Earth, Zim had been promoted to some kind of mega-star.

"I'm just a mockery! They don't appreciate my true greatness!" Dib rolled his eyes. Zim's lack of ego had worried him for just a moment -- not long, mind you, more like a fraction of a moment. "But," Zim continued, "you know what?"

Dib couldn't guess, nor could he curb his curiosity, so he asked, "What?"

"I don't really care anymore. I don't care what they think; I'm having a fine time on Earth without them." Zim sounded smug, as if his amusement was open defiance of his leaders, and for all Dib knew, maybe it was.

"So you'll abandon your people and join me in my recapturing of Earth?" Dib inquired hopefully.

"No." Zim replied bluntly, with a glare that seemed to read "Duh!".

"Oh." Dib felt more crestfallen than he should have, considering that he'd only had 1.8 seconds to raise his hopes before Zim had crushed them.

"But I don't want my superiors to win, and I don't want to send you to them." Zim finished.

"Send me to them? What's that supposed to mean?" Dib demanded angrily.

Zim shrugged. "Well you are the leader of the Earth's resistance, no matter how pitiful and pathetic it may be." the green alien replied. "They'll want to torture you and interrogate you a bit. Mostly torture, though, I should think."

Dib shook his head and mumbled some comeback along the lines of "Thanks for that lovely mental picture."

Zim ignored him. "But I don't want them to hurt my -- you." Dib caught the rather obvious stumble, and recalled Freud's definition of Repression, but he knew that if he brought up, or even seemed to dwell on the mistake of words, then Zim would deny he'd ever said such a thank and begin to digress. "And I may be a joke on my home planet, but I'm still Head of Operations on Earth."

Dib stared, not quite understanding. "So what are you going to do? Wage war?"

"Primitive, ignorant thinking." Zim said condescendingly. "Haven't you ever heard of a bribe? I'll pay two of the guards to let you go and give you a two minute head start."

"So this is all a game?"

"Yes. To me, at least. To you, it's a matter of life and death. I have to admit, life here would be boring without you, so as long as you keep me amused with the challenge, I'll spare your pathetic life."

"Gee, thanks." Dib replied, not sounding particularly grateful. He thought about the previous conversation. "Wait a second, you're only giving me two minutes to get out of this freaking maze you call a base? That isn't nearly enough time!"

"I suppose you'll have to run, won't you? I don't want you slacking off and thinking that I'm not going to kill you just because you're amusing for a stupid stinkbeast. This was just a warning. I won't even hesitate to kill you if I catch you again, pathetic Earth-ape."

Dib wondered about this. I think he would hesitate at least a little, he assured himself. Maybe not much, but at least a little. That thought comforted him, though why the thought of Zim pausing a moment before unleashing some sort of horrifically painful death onto him should comfort him at all, is completely beyond me.

Before Dib knew what hit him, he was shoved up from his kneeling position and into two burly Zim's-race guards. His legs cramped instantly as he stood, painful after kneeling for so long. He had a moment to ease the pain while Zim paid the guards off.

"Hey Zim?" Dib asked hesitantly. "Thanks."

"Whatever. Just don't get used to it, Dib."

Dib inwardly grinned. Zim had said his name! No stupid insults or nicknames attached. This was the first time... "Don't worry, I won't."

"I wasn't worried, pathetic Dib-human; it was a warning. If anything, you should be worried!" Zim paused, and his demeanor changed. "But it was nice talking to you. Maybe we can do it again sometime?"

"Don't count on it." Dib replied, smirking. "I'm not stupid, you know."

"Oh? You could have fooled me! Not that I would be fooled... I am unfoolable! You can never fool me!" Dib stared. Sometimes Zim could act really insane... Zim seemed to realize that he was acting weird and corrected himself. "What I mean is... Don't change. Stay stupidly paranoid."

Zim leaned forward and brushed his lips over Dib's. Dib didn't look shocked, on the contrary, he looked amused as he returned the kiss. "I promise. I won't ever change, as long as you won't."

"Oh, and by the way, you have one-minute, twelve seconds left of your escape time." Zim said casually.

"I-- what!? Stupid... That's the last time I talk with a cheating alien!" Dib yelled as he raced away. Zim smirked and watched him run, surprised with the raven-haired boy skidded to a stop and spun around. "What's the name of your alien people?"

"You've only got one minute, six seconds and you stop to ask me a question like that?" Zim demanded incredulously.

"Stop stalling and answer me!"

"My people are called the mighty Irkens!"

Dib took off running again, unable to contain a grin. Finally, a name to hate other than Zim's! Not Zim's aliens, not Zim's people, not Zim's species... Irkens!

* * *

Dib had escaped over five minutes past the deadline of his head start, but he was quick enough to avoid recapture by the guards. He'd never thought he'd be grateful for the year Ms. Bitters had taught gym class. He could still here the echoes of her screaming: "Faster, faster, brats! Faster or you're all doomed! You're doomed anyways, but you'll be doomed even faster if you don't run! Run! Hear me? RUN!" That had been in seventh grade, the last year before Zim's -- no, before the Irkens had conquered Earth.

Dib was feeling happy, if not particularly thoughtful when he arrived home, despite the fact that Gaz hadn't bothered to leave dinner out for him and he'd lost all the supplies he'd originally gone out to get. Oh well, they could go without toilet paper for a few days. Gaz would probably doom him when she found out he didn't have batteries, though...

Dib crawled into his tiny bed and curled up inside the blankets, thinking. Thinking about the kiss, specifically. It wasn't their first kiss, not really. The first time they'd touched lips, true, but not their first kiss. Every time they met, every time their eyes met and they exchanged affectionate insults -- "Pathetic stinkbeast!" "Alien scum!" -- they kissed. It wasn't exactly the same, but it felt the same, and more importantly, it meant the same thing.

"Zim... Always trying to trick me... Won't work. Never will." Dib murmured as he fell asleep.

Author's Note: Short, I know. Weird, yes. OOC, probably. But I still like it. I've only seen Invader Zim once or twice, counting the time on my grandmother's broken television set… But I still think Zim and Dib make a cute couple! Comments and criticism? Thanks! Flames? Send 'em my way; I really don't care. You're entitled to your own opinion.