Chapter 1

He didn't know when he stopped caring, but he was positive he did.

Maybe it was the numbness he felt upon entering that school again after a summer of silence and despair, the insults no longer leaving the same sting they once had in his more rambunctious days. Maybe it was the first time that blade had touched his pale skin, the blood trickling down his arm in dark crimson streaks that 'sealed the deal'. It wasn't relevant at this point anyway. Slinking to the floor of his dark bedroom, he grunted slightly as his bottom hit the carpeted floor with a quiet thud.

As he absent-mindedly ran his fingers over the various open wounds, scabs, and scars that littered his arms, he went over the events of the day like re-watching a horror movie. The teasing was merciless, the insults attempting to cut deeper than they ever had. Though it was only the first week at the high school, the new influx of bigger, meaner teens brought new techniques of mental and physical torture he had not been prepared for. The dense-headed bullies stalked the hallways like proud lions; searching for the little gazelle who was weak-minded and naïve. The prey never does learn its lesson.

Even with all of the torture, dropping out wasn't an option. After finally gaining his father's respect the past summer for dropping his study in the paranormal, the professor wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and take over Membrane Labs, hoping that Dib will one day outshine him in case of his untimely death. He had no choice but to accept, no matter how droningly boring it was to him. He was enjoying knowing that his father was becoming proud of him, even though he wasn't very proud of himself. His father usually took him down to the labs a couple times a week, letting him work with the level-headed and quiet scientists. They treated him better than the fellow teenagers at school; like he was an equal and didn't used to be some obsessive basket-case. Plus, now that the school year had resumed, he was going to miss school a few times a week, protecting him from facing the vicious teenagers temporarily.

It should have been a comforting fact, but it wasn't. It wasn't comforting to know that his father was finally proud of him, or that Gaz suddenly didn't want to rip his intestines out in his sleep. It hurt to know that he would never be liked by his fellow peers. He would never have a flourishing social life, would never take a girl on a date, let alone even fall in love. That hurt infinitely more than any of the harshest insults anyone had ever spat his way. No matter what, he would always be considered an outcast.

Dib didn't hesitate to blame all of his immense pain and suffering on the pathetic threat of an alien known as Zim. Trying to reveal him for years had always failed, or worse, backfired and got him picked on even more. As the years went by and his persistence only increased, the other children found it wasn't some sort of childish thing he was going to outgrow. Towards the end of the scythe-haired boy's middle school career, he had finally given up. The alien was no longer a threat. His intelligence was questionable, and his plans always seemed to fall apart; whether Dib was the cause of it or not. Teachers sent the alien down to counselor after counselor, but after many interesting sessions with him, they eventually deemed him insane and left him alone. While other students avoided eye contact and purposely went a different path to evade him when word got out, Zim was perfectly content with that label and enjoyed the solitude. So leaving him to his own devices didn't seem like the worst idea in the world.

With his purpose on this world having disappeared, Dib was left with nothing. The thoughts of suicide consumed his brain more and more each day, always popping in with another good reason to persuade him into cutting his arms just the right way. Sometimes, though, his mind would occasionally wander to such fantasies as helping Zim along with his little world-conquest plan. He wouldn't mind seeing the human race burned alive, even if it included him. He didn't want to live with the empty void that consumed his soul, or be stuck working in the labs the rest of his life, never seeing daylight and working to help the people who had made his life miserable. He was almost certain if he helped the alien, the plan would go through quickly and effortlessly. He had thought through every scenario while working with chemicals in the lab, thought through every possible snag while he studied the various biology and chemistry textbooks his father had given him, and thought of who he'd love to see die first as he lay in bed at night.

Maybe this idea wasn't half bad.

His boots crunched the autumn leaves as he walked briskly through the neighborhood, the reds and oranges mingling together before being swept up by the chilling winds. He tried to walk quickly; whether it was fear of being seen, or fear of changing his mind, the human was not sure. He didn't allow his brain to rethink the options and instead focused on his strangely even breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. He hadn't even made it to the familiar steps of the awkward, sea-green home before the inanimate gnomes quickly came to live and moved to capture the taller teen. Zim had not upgraded them since their elementary days, so Dib easily knocked them over, causing their wheels to whirl loudly in an attempt to stand back up.

"Dib-human!" His head snapped to the front door of the home, to the carrier of that screechy, familiar voice. He stood in the doorway; his arms straight at his sides with his hands balled up in angry fists. He was in his pitiful human disguise with the obviously outdated wig and his scratchy contact lenses. Dib froze before moving to a more cautious position for his own self-protection.

"What are you doing here on Zim's property?" The alien hissed.

"I came here to talk to you," He spat habitually, crossing his arms. Zim's eyes widened in surprise, and his hands unclenched the slightest bit. His large orbs then narrowed as he studied his enemy. After not seeing Dib for the entire summer, he was quite confused as well as interested to hear was the human had to say, but the alien knew he needed to keep his emotions to himself.

"Talk of what?" The alien asked cautiously, crossing his arms as well to match Dib's stance.

"I'm sick of this planet, that's what." The human growled, his feet moving him closer and closer to the alien. Zim stumbled backwards into his base, his eyes widened in fear as Dib continued forward with no intention of stopping. With the burning anger in his eyes, the alien was preparing to defend himself from being murdered at this point. The human's combat boots stomped on the tiled floor before he slammed the door shut behind them. The frame of the house shook slightly, causing Zim to retreat more into himself for self-preservation. Dib then took a deep breath.

"I want to help you take over the planet."

An earsplitting laugh echoed from Zim's throat as his mouth opened wide, showing his odd zipper-like teeth and his long, earth-worm tongue. Dib blushed a little, feeling all of his confidence from earlier drain out of him. He clenched his fists and took a step closer to the alien, attempting to look a bit stronger in his proposal.

"I'm serious, Zim!" He shrieked, his cheeks still flushed a deep red. Zim's laughter halted, and he instead eyed the boy suspiciously.

"What is this; some sort of joke? I'm smarter than that, Dib-stink." He turned around, signaling to Dib that the conversation was over. Instead, Dib stepped forward and viciously grabbed Zim by his frail shoulders and spun him around.

"Look at me!" He demanded. The alien glanced up, his eyes widened in disbelief. "Don't you see me getting picked on every day? All I've done is try and save them, and this is the reward I get?" Rage and self-pity flooded the teen at such a quick pace he thought he might keel over at the sudden intensity. He took a shaky breath, trying to fight the urge to crumble before his enemy. He needed to keep it together to make this proposal look professional and legitimate.

Zim just stared at the boy, unsure of what to do. What did he even expect the alien to do? Take this human under his wing and hope for the best he doesn't turn him in to the authorities, or even his father? What would his leaders think of taking a human back to Irk with him? Zim pondered the consequences, knowing they were quite serious and life-threatening. With one look into the defeated teenager's eyes though, he could see the deep sadness that was seated within him. It gave the alien a sense of honesty; but he knew better than to trust Dib.

"What do you expect me to do with you when the Earth is destroyed?" Zim questioned, hoping to get some insight into what the boy had planned.

Dib opened his mouth to speak, but closed it immediately. His eyes darted to the floor, his mind struggling to come up with some sort of plan. How could he have overlooked such a major point in his proposal? The alien's eyes were burning a hole through his body as he awaited some sort of response from the teen. Instead, Dib sighed, defeated.

"I don't know," The human answered finally.

"I suppose I could take you back to my home planet," Zim mused, placing one of his claws on his chin. "It would take some convincing, but if I made you my slave-"

"A slave?" The teenager echoed. "That's the best I can be?"

"Would you rather I just kill you along with the other Earthlings?" He retorted, his voice angry. "I recall you were the one asking Zim for his assistance." Dib shut his mouth quickly and looked down in submission.

"If you're going to assist me, you are to stay here." Zim began as he started a walk around the room. "No contact with the outside world whatsoever. I'm still unsure if I can trust you, so this is the only way to ensure you won't go telling that father of yours you found an alien." He glanced backwards, and smiled at Dib's depressed face. He said nothing in response.

"I suppose it's settled then," He chuckled to himself. He turned on his heel, marching stiffly towards the kitchen. Upon entering, he stopped and glanced back. "Are you coming?"

"Yeah," He answered quietly, moving his numb body forward like he was on autopilot. What was he getting himself in to?