I fixed the dates!

Night-Waker,

I just have to respond to your post cuz yikes, I messed up with something. You mentioned that Red and Purple's names are in pairing mode, first of all, if I were implying something, it would be FRIENDSHIP (your comment made me laugh out loud). Secondly, the pairing meant to be just Tak and ZIM. But heck! I'll just keep Red and Purple as a pairing because there's a painfully obvious bromance between the two.

Also, if you think the last chapter escalated quickly. Just wait till you read this one. ;)


August 8, 2001

"Tell us more about your past, Red. We've learned a lot of secrets about you, but we'd love to know more." Red smirked at Dib's plea.

"Yeah, Kelly. Tell us more." ZIM jibed. Red shook his head.

"Mate, I can't answer to that name. It costed me nearly two hundred dollars and hours and hours of paperwork to change my name. And of course our parents weren't too happy with my decision. I think I deserve to be called by my present legal name. Kelly Eliasetto doesn't exist anymore. Red Elias, however, will be more than willing to tell you more about his childhood."

"Then please do!" Timmy chirped. Red adjusted himself on his saddle, tipping his black, felt hat back a bit.

"Where do you want me to start?"

"When you started first keeping memories." Timmy said.

"Very well," Red took a deep breath. "That's about age four then. I was an only child for the first seven years of my life. When Zee came around that was also the same time I changed my name. So she always knew me as Red too and would often forget that I even had another name in the first place, hence why Zee and Tenn never brought it up. Anyways, back to age four, I was definitely the most misbehaved cousin in our family. Which is saying a lot since at that time I already had about ten cousins. And even after our family expanded to forty cousins, nana is still convinced I'm the worst dju."

"Refresh me on what that word means." A.J. asked.

"It's Irkenirakee for 'naughty boy'." Red cleared his throat before speaking again. "I was always finding trouble. I often caused stampedes with the dairies going in for milking. I would put piglets in sacks and hang them from the rafters of the barns. I'd spook the horses when my cousins, uncles, or aunts were on them. I would jump on bull's backs because I wanted to be like dad and papa. Bull riding was always an interest of mine. Any rodeo event really was. Oh! And if a animal died, I'd take the corpse and put it in the bed of people's trucks. Sometimes they'd go days without noticing the rotting beast in the bed until it really started to reek." Red chuckled. "Longest record time is a pig in aunt Kylie's truck. Eight days."

"How would the animals go unnoticed for that long?" Chester asked.

"I hid them underneath things that were already in the back." Red said.

"I'm assuming you didn't get away with all that." Dib said.

"Oh hell no. I'd get a whoopin'. I was never grounded until the age of thirteen when they decided I was too old for the usual physical punishment. However in high school they'd still use corporal punishment. That's how it was back then." Red told them. "But it seemed like everyday I'd get into trouble. It was really unnerving to my parents, so eventually they sent me to a bootcamp for a few months, hoping I'd grow up a bit."

"Did it work?" Dib wondered. Red scoffed.

"Huh! I came back worse than ever!"

"Tell us about school for you!" Timmy said.

"Oh boy, I could write a whole book on that." Red scratched his chin. "Elementary school, I was boisterous, disruptive, immature, and disrespectful."

"You aren't anymore?" Purple chuckled. Red playfully swatted at his friend, riding along side him.

"Anyways, I didn't get a beating for acting up just at home. Oh no, I lived in a generation where physical punishment in schools was very much legal. I believe the law changed in 1999, here in Western Australia. Meaning if ZIM chose to go to public school, he more than likely would've gotten it too."

"That was literally only two years ago! Holy cow!" Timmy exclaimed.

"We still don't have a national ban in Canada." Purple said. "Schools may give you a physical punishment if they want to this day." The boys' mouths dropped.

"I couldn't imagined getting spanked in front of all my friends." Chester said. Red smiled,

"Eh, you get used to it." Red said. "There was actually a few instances where I purposely got into trouble after my girlfriend at the time told me she liked a bad boy. Anything to turn her on."

"How many girls have you dated in the past?" Dib asked.

"I honestly lost count after twenty. Like seriously, I was a huge man whore and everyone knew it. A lot of the skanky girls didn't mind and agreed to date me. It was nearly impossible for me to get a nice chick. Guess skanky girls belong with slutty guys."

"You were a slut?"

"Well . . . Not technically-"

"Ever had sex with any of them?"

"Timmy! That's a private topic!" A.J. snapped. Red bit his lip.

"Ya know, I'm not surprised that you asked that. I mean, I would be wondering the same thing. But I was strict on sexual abstinence."

"Were you really?" Purple asked, disbelievingly. Red gave him a look that made him seem like he was lying. Red subtly shook his head, mouthing the word, 'no' to him. Purple raised his eye ridges questioningly.

"Ooo." Red shushed him and continued with his lying for the sake of his younger brother.

"If a girl asked me to have sex with her, usually telling her that I had both female and male reproductive organs scared her off. However . . . there still had been a few close calls even after I told them."

"What?" ZIM had his horse trot up next to Red's. "Like when?"

"Well my party hard high school days were tempting to me. There had been a few instances where a sheila managed to strip me to my boxers about to perform an Aussie kiss . . . You boys shouldn't know what that is. Anyhow, I snapped out of it before anything else happened. I liked to keep my hands mostly to myself when I'm with girls, but when I'm flirting, that's a different story. Girls would get very touchy feely with all my goods when we were Frenching. Oh! Let me tell you something! One night, my G.F. at the time and I were walking on a deserted beach and we stopped to sit on a rock and have a little fun. When we started kissing, everything was going fine until I found out this girl had a sick fetish of salivating in my mouth! I got this huge spit wad of her's dripping from my mouth down my chin. I didn't want to make her angry by spitting out her nasty saliva . . . So I swallowed it." The company all made sounds of utter disgust. Cringing at the mental images Red gave them. "Yeah, but the farthest I've ever gone on a girl was second base. And the farthest a girl went on me was third."

"I don't get these bases. What do they mean?" Dib asked. Red looked back at him.

"You really wanna know?"

"Well, how much worse can it be from what you've already told us?" Red grinned.

"First is making out, second is feeling over the clothes, third is under the clothes."

"Home run is forn-i-cation!" ZIM exclaimed with a random southern drawl. Red scowled at him.

"And how do you already know that?"

"I hit home runs all the time, Red." ZIM winked at him. Red narrowed his eyes at the boy.

"They better be the baseball home runs you're talkin' about." ZIM just giggled. Red rolled his eyes. "Anyway, I only allowed a girl to go to third on me if we've been dating for awhile."

"So you mentioned both reproductive organs and how girls would get weirded out by that fact. Was Leslie not?" A.J. wondered. Red smirked.

"I never told her because she never asked to have intercourse. She found out on our wedding night. I was first to get naked and she just kinda looked at my body in all of its glory and asked me where the fuck my dick was." The boys laughed at that.

"And was she repulsed by your hermaphroditedness?"

"Nah. She took it really well. I don't think she cared actually. She just wanted to get rid of her V-card. And after being married to an Irken for five years, when we found out I was pregnant, she wasn't weirded out by that either. Leslie's cool like that."

"You haven't been married that long-"

"Shush!" Red cut ZIM off.

"Was she cool with the fact that you had a lot more girlfriends than you let on?" Timmy asked.

". . . No. Just a couple days ago she called me a man-whore . . . We had an argument and she brought my past into the fight to make a point."

"Well, you were rather slutty. Like a slutty virgin if that's possible." ZIM said. "It's okay, Red. You're a good-looking guy and hell, you had girls flinging themselves at you left and right. You still do have them wanting you like that."

"Why are we on this topic of your sex life? You realize you're talking about sex to a bunch of minors, right? . . . Which reminds me, must you always squeal when you orgasm? You wake Tenn and I up all the time." Purple said.

"You mean ten minutes after you squeal from an orgasm?" Purple lifted his hand, flipping his friend the bird.

"This is why we can't have our rooms next to each other." Purple muttered. "Too many squealing contests at night."

"I sleep through it all. Though I always knew Red would be a squealer." ZIM said. "I hope to God, sex squealing doesn't run through the male genes. I'm not sure if Tak will find that sexy."

"How do you sound so sure you're marrying her?" Red asked. "You act as if you're already engaged." ZIM gave his older brother a sheepish grin.

"Hey, we're talking about you here. Not me."

"So you got bullied a lot in school because of all your escapades with girls among other things?" Dib asked. "I didn't expect that. I thought you'd be Mr. Popular."

"Oh I was. I was the popular, jackass, everyone either loved to death or hated enough to murder. I stole a lot of girls from some guys and . . . Well . . . Yeah. They always made me regret it."

"Did others call you a slut?" Timmy asked.

"Everyone who hated me in the schools did. My friends even called me a whore and shit like that. Everyone thought I got laid every night. They never got to know that I was pure up until I married Les. Then she fucked me. . . and I liked it . . . and that was that . . . How about we change the topic to something a little more . . . appropriate."

"I heard you were like a huge asshole in school! Picking on kids and bullying. Getting into fights." Chester said.

"Don't think of me just as the bad guy. There's a whole other half to that story too! You see, I wasn't just the bully . . . I was a target too." The boy's cocked their brows.

"But weren't you like, ruler of the school, and what not?" Timmy asked. Red shrugged.

"Yeah, a little bit." Red rubbed his face. "Boys, I lived in a racist era. A lot of people didn't like me because of the color of my skin and my heritage. I was scorned for being green and not human by a lot of my peers. And, as much as I hate to admit this, I was the runt of most my classes. I stood at ZIM's current height up until eighth grade when I grew to four and a half foot. Then in tenth I grew seven inches. Then by the time I was a senior, I grew to my current height, and even now, I'm less than average. I was a firecracker when it came to sports and fighting, though. But only speed and agility was on my side. Strength was definitely not my strong point . . . Pun not intended. So I was picked on as much as I was the one dishing it out."

"What kinds of things would they call and do to you?"

"Well my most infamous nickname was Commie. Remember that this was back when there was a huge communism scare. And the fact that my name is Red and my eyes are red, made it very easy for people to falsely accuse me of being a communist. Hence the name, Commie. Negra was often shouted in aggression toward me. I had rocks thrown at me. Cornered when I was alone. I remember being beaten senseless by the most racist jerk offs in school." Red bowed his head at the memory. "It was after a soccer match in the locker room. I was sore and slow so I told my friends to leave without me. Big mistake because as soon as they left, a gang saw that I was alone and vulnerable. They pounced me when I was wearing nothing but my soccer shorts. Got a black eye, bruised ribs, several bleeding cuts, and to wrap it up, they turned the showers on and cranked up the heat to unbearable, knowing I wouldn't be able to crawl out from underneath the water's hot stream, so I also got second degree burns that hurt like hell." The boys were speechless.

"Damn." Purple muttered. "I went through the same racial degrading you did. Sucks, but it got noticeably better with every passing year."

"True."

"Any racist teacher's like Miss. Itry?" A.J. asked, bitterly.

"A few." Red answered. "But most of the teachers were fair. I had a few sexy teachers too. Young and fresh out of college." Red smiled at the memory. "I always had a thing for older women."

"Is that why you married Leslie?" Chester asked.

"Les is only three years older." Red told them. "That may seem like a big age gap to you, but trust me, once you're out of school, you stop caring."

"How old was the oldest woman you've ever dated?" Timmy questioned.

"Hmm, I think about twelve years older." The boys gasped. "Yeah, mum and dad didn't like it either. If she was an Irken they wouldn't have cared as much, but since she was human, it disturbed them."

"How old were you?"

"I think seventeen."

"So this chick was twenty-nine?" Dib asked, shocked.

"Yeah. Her name was Chrissy. She was tall too. Very intimidating." Red sighed. "I ended up breaking up with her."

"Well, obviously." ZIM muttered.

"She was one of those skanks who always wanted to be in a guy's pants. I wouldn't have been surprised if she was riddled with AIDs. But that ain't the reason why I cut off the relationship. One night, we went out and she got extremely drunk. She asked me if I wanted to have sex with her and I shot her down. She didn't like that. A little bit later, after giving me a few drinks, she asked again, I said no. She was furious about getting rejected twice by me so she . . ." Red trailed off, thinking of a good way to explain what happened to him. "She drugged me. Slipped a roofie in my drink without me noticing. Dragged me to her car and tried to have her way with me in the backseat. But thank The Lord, Lard Nar went with us that night and he saw her drag my body out. He saved me from a date rape."

"No way! You could've been raped by a crazy chick!" Timmy shouted. "Eww!"

"Ew is right. Rape is . . . Ugh. I don't even wish to think about it." Red shuddered. "What could have been that night, I'm so lucky nothing really happened . . . Besides getting roofied of course. Lard Nar brought me home that night. He parked in our driveway, got mum and dad and told them everything. I woke up the next morning on the couch with a huge headache and infuriated parents waiting for me to get up. They were relieved, don't get me wrong, but they were royally pissed at my carelessness. Screaming about how I could have gotten hurt and I need to watch my drinks at all times and they forbid me from ever even looking at Chrissy ever again. They were even planning on pressing charges but I told them we had no ground to stand on because she didn't actually force me into unrequited sex."

"That's weird cuz usually it's the men who target women." A.J. said.

"Yeah, welcome to the backwards world of Red Macale. In fact, it's true for all Irkens. The rape statistics for both male and female Irkens are pretty equivalent. It's because of our hermaphroditedness that this happens, it's also because we have equal amounts of estrogen and testosterone hormones in us, which is why us Irken males are more sensitive than a typical human man, and Irken females are more bold and aggressive than a human female. I'm an Irken male with a higher dosage of estrogen in me because I can be a child bearer. If you were to be like Peder, you'd have much more testosterone and that's why he's incapable of conceiving. So there's a few facts for you about us Irkens. On Irk, rape is the felony right below murder for the most horrendous crimes in Irken society. On earth it's often brushed off as an unfortunate event. And you know what? That was another reason why I didn't press charges. The court cares less about men getting raped because it's so uncommon, unheard of even. However, if this were to happen to me on Irk, even though nothing happened, she could've been put in jail for a long time for even drugging me for intentions of ravishing me." Red told them. "Oh! And going back to the teacher thing. I didn't have as many racist teachers as I did right handed teachers."

"What do you mean?"

"Back in my school days, we were only to write with our right hand because left was considered impure and sinful and a shame to society." The four human boys gave Red a questioning look. "I'm left handed."

"Oooh." They awed.

"Every time a teacher who was anal about lefties saw me writing, he or she would smack my knuckles with a ruler. Then I'd have to write my paper with my right hand and it'd be illegible which would lead to another punishment."

"ZIM, you're left handed too, right?" A.J. asked. ZIM nodded.

"I'm an ambi, but I prefer left. It runs through male genes in our family on our dad's side."

"And ZIM's lucky he doesn't get discriminated for it like I was. Do you know why you're ambidextrous?" ZIM shrugged. "Because when you were just learning how to write, I would constantly put your pencil in your right hand so you wouldn't have to endure what I did. Otherwise, you'd be a full blown lefty too."

"Huh! I thought I was born with it." ZIM said in wonder.

"Oh, no. To be born ambidextrous is rare. Seriously, my teachers would call my mom and tell her that she had a good-for-nothing son who was too dumb to use the right hand. I had a teacher break my hand once! He smacked it with a paddle instead of a ruler like a normal person and totally crushed my hand . . . I was only six when that happened!" Red shook his head. "Another teacher smacked my hand when I was writing an essay and yelled at me to stop writing with my impure hand. When she turned around I said, 'I'm gonna flip you off with my impure hand'. So I did. And I ended up with a bruised hand and a bruised ass. She was doubly insulted that not only did I give her the bird, but did it with my left hand . . . Bitch. My biggest problem with being left handed is that I smudge what I write all the time."

"Red . . . did you get hurt in some shape or form every single day you went to school? Cuz it sure sounds like it. Maybe that's why you're so messed up now." Timmy said. "I'd be scared if I were you going to school everyday."

"It was more like every other day, but yeah. Everyday for being left handed. I had a constant bruise on my hand and it was always sore! At one point, I finally snapped because I was so sick of being struck with a ruler on the hand and it just hurt so fucking much, I attacked a teacher. I stood up after he swatted my wrist, grabbed his ruler, snapped it in half, then pushed him over a desk. I had to run out of the room after that. He started chasing me. I could out run him no problem, but he got his colleagues as back ups and they finally got me cornered. He dragged me to the principals office where they whipped me till I was seeing stars."

"I don't get why you enjoy getting spanked by Leslie if your childhood was full of bad memories of public canings." ZIM mumbled. Red blushed with a dorky smile on his face.

"It's sexy when my wife wants to teach me a lesson. Not a fifty year old man." Red said. "Besides, Leslie is gentle." Red grinned, thinking about himself and his wife, missing her more and more by the second.

"Were you a jerk to everyone? Like, even those with disabilities?" Red snapped a gaze to Dib who asked the question.

"I would never make fun of a disability. I have before and I regret ever saying it. Not because my punishment was painful but because it made me feel like a low life. That was when I was ten. In high school I befriended a girl with Down's syndrome. Everyone thought I was just making fun of her for being her friend. They thought I was just amusing myself because I would often make fun of special needs kids. I hate my past self so much. But I loved her, despite the fact of what kids thought. She was one of my best friends. Just a year older than I, every time it came up she always had to remind me that she was older and smarter, therefore in charge of me, though she wasn't controlling, she was too sweet to do something like that. I was her only friend. She wanted me to meet her parents so I agreed to see them. Once I got to her house her parents were beyond ecstatic to see me. They were so joyful that someone actually cared about their daughter besides them or any other adult. Her name was Greta."

"Was?" ZIM questioned. Red didn't meet their eyes. He kept his head low, closing his eyes sorrowfully.

"Greta died three years after I met her. It was her senior year. She had a respiratory problem, one day she just stopped breathing all together. She was only nineteen years old."

"Aw! Dude! That's tragic!" Timmy exclaimed. Red looked up smiling a bit at some memories flooding back to him.

"She was such a doll. She always said I was handsome and nice. I would tell her that she's a beautiful woman. She really liked it when people called her a woman. It made her feel 'older', she would tell me. Once she asked me when I was gonna marry her. It was adorable. I told her that I couldn't marry her because she deserves someone better than me. She wanted to marry me though. I later asked her to go to prom with me. She was elated and the girl I was dating at the time thought it was very nice of me."

"Let me get this straight. You were friends with Greta all throughout high school? And yet you were a huge jerk at the same time? Something isn't piecing together here." Purple said. Red just shook his head.

"He's right. You sound like a hypocritical douche bag." ZIM said.

"Why don't we give Peder a turn to speak." Red changed the subject in order to avoid the hard question. Purple gave Red a funny look.

"Curious about my childhood? I told you a lot already."

"Yeah, but the kids don't know." Purple sighed.

"Alrighty then. I was born in the great year of sixty-nine." He and Red grinned widely at each other, giggling like school girls.

"It sure was a great year." Red agreed.

"Mmmhmmm." Purple drawled. "Anyhow! I am the youngest of two children. My sister, Marzi, is nine years older than me. I was born and mostly raised in Montréal, Québec in Canada in the neighborhood of Westmount, which, not to brag or anything, was the most expensive, ritzy neighborhood in Montréal, if not all of Canada. If I wasn't living in Montréal, I was living in the isolated, desolate province, Yukon Territory where the population there is just over thirty thousand, in the city of Whitehorse, which isn't too far from the Alaskan boarder. We go there every winter to mush and participate in a bunch of winter activities. That's where my extended family on my mom's side live. My dad's side was all from Montréal and they hate it when I speak English in front of them. But it's the same for pretty much all of Quebec where French is the primary language. At school and home, you spoke French but I'd often break those rules because I wanted to be more fluent in English. I never fully learned English until I was eight. Betcha didn't know that."

"We didn't."

"You learned something. Good job. My mom is an athletic trainer and doctor."

"Really? I knew she was a trainer but doctor too? What kind?" ZIM asked.

"Cardiologist. She knows the heart better than anyone else in Canada, I swear." Purple muttered. "She is a huge hockey nut and made me start playing at the age of three. She also wanted me to figure skate for a little while so I have some grace on the ice as well. My mom was very pushy when it came to me and sports. Same with Marzi. She figure skated too. Us two did a lot of sports like snowboarding competitively, hockey, and figure skating. However Marzi was huge into skiing. I hate skiing. Tried it a couple times, didn't like it. Part of the reason as to how I learned to do the straddle splits was because of skiing."

"What does your father do as a career?"

"Dad is a nuclear radiation engineer. He also owns an amateur hockey team. And my sister now owns a oil drilling company."

"Oo! She'll be rolling in the dough!" Red said.

"She has been 'rolling in the dough' ever since she graduated high school. She didn't go to college like me, instead she bought stocks. She's really smart with money, she became a millionaire just one year after high school."

"And you became a research, freelance, biologist?" Dib asked.

"Yup. I specialized in microorganisms." Purple answered.

"Sounds like you come from a family of brainiacs." Chester said.

"Yeah. We just got done talking about Red and his family being a bunch of cowboys, then switching to your family who have all these brilliant careers." Timmy laughed. Purple shook his head.

"The Macale's are the richest family on earth. Probably on Irk too."

"From ranching?" Timmy wondered.

"I'm talking Red's immediate family. Him, his sisters and ZIM. They're billionaires as it is. Combine that with the extended family, it's mind boggling." Purple said. "Money aside now. Unlike Red, I was a relatively well behaved child."

"It's 'cuz you're Canadian." ZIM stated.

"Yeah . . . That's why. Anyway, I was extroverted like Red yet respectful and considerate. I too had many girlfriends in the past but I treated them kindly instead of just a fling also like Red."

"You're making me sound like a bad person."

"Well you were." Purple said. "I played year round hockey for many different teams. School teams, traveling teams, sponsored teams, and I got drafted into the Minor National Hockey League, which is basically one step below the NHL. The NHL has considered me for awhile actually, until they figured I was too petite and my body couldn't take the beating . . ." Purple sounded bitter about the topic. "Assholes." He muttered. "In the winter months I was a musher, only when in the Yukon though. I'd look pretty dumb with a dog sled team in the suburbs of Montréal."

"And you're training to do the Iditarod this year?" A.J. asked.

"Yup. Got a team of ten. I might need six more though. That's the average size team." Purple confirmed. "The first time I raced, or rather attempted to race, the Iditarod, I nearly died. It's a good thing they track the racers 'cuz otherwise I would have died. Hypothermia, hallucinations, frostbite, the elements and frozen lakes, all of those are dangers to a musher."

"How did you nearly die?" Timmy asked, interested.

"Like I said, frozen lakes are dangers because there is no way of telling if it's thoroughly solid ice or not. My team was coming up to a lake and not wanting to take any bold risks, I commanded my lead dog to halt so I could get off and walk on the ice to test it."

"You fell through?" ZIM guessed.

"Kind of. I was about thirty yards out on the lake when I heard this monstrous cracking noise start from where my foot was pressed down and echoed across the entire lake. I stood there, terrified and still for a good five minutes just waiting for my body to plunge into the water and get stuck under the ice. After awhile I decided that I needed to keep moving, so I slowly turned around and my left leg fell straight through, getting cut on the sharp ice shard on my way down. Then of course the ice around it started to give way and soon I found myself treading in thirty below zero water. Every time I tried to pull my body back up on the ice, it'd just break off and sink into the water. So I called for my team to slowly make their way to me. My lead dog led my team to me, being wary of the ice. When they neared where I was I told them to stop and crawl to me from there. Once my lead dog got near the hole I was in, I reached my arm out as far as I could and told her bite my sleeve and pull me back to shore. It took ten minutes to get me out of the water, another five minutes to drag me to shore, then when I reached the land, I was so, so, so cold. It felt like a thousand needles stabbing my body repeatedly. I was shaking so hard I couldn't move. Eventually I forced myself to move. I went into survival mode and started to do what everyone should do if they were ever caught in my situation."

"And what's that?" Dib humored him. Purple smirked.

"Strip naked and wait for my clothes to dry."'

"What? Wouldn't that be even colder?" Chester asked in awe.

"Actually, Chester, if you keep wet clothes on in extremely cold weather, you'd find yourself getting hypothermia a lot quicker." A.J. said.

"Exactly. So to keep warm in the mean time, I huddled up with my dogs. I fell into an uncomfortable sleep while waiting for my clothes to dry, but I woke up to rangers of the Iditarod trail preparing to air lift me to the nearest hospital. I told them that I was gonna finish the race, they didn't listen. And. I. Was. Pissed." Purple grumbled. "I was obviously too weak to fight off these men so I had no choice but be taken out of the race. They pretty much swaddled me in a woolen blanket, which by the way, I'm allergic to wool so they only made me feel worse. And like I said, I was mad so I was cussing and yelling at them, even trying to get off the gurney they strapped me on. They finally got sick of me being all pissy so they put me under. Woke up in a hospital, parents and sister by my side. Mom was being a mom, dad was telling me how proud he was of me, and Marzi was a little concerned herself."

"What were your injuries, if any?" Dib asked.

"Long cut from my ankle up to my knee, forty stitches. Frostbite in my fingers, face, feet, hands, and legs. My hands were also all cut up from the rough ice. I suffered from dehydration and pneumonia. I was in the hospital for three days before they let me go."

"Didn't you say that mushing was your first job in the Yukon?" ZIM wondered.

"Yes. It was. I would transport commodities from city to city when the roads were too slick for semis to drive on."

"Wow . . . Did anything else happen?" Timmy scoot closer to Purple's horse on the camel's back he was riding on. "Like, that was cool to you?"

"For the longest time I was a motocross racer. I never competed in peewee, that's racing at the age of three to six. I started when I was seven in novice. Racing that is. When I was three through six I was learning under my mom's wing. She was a star racer. Competed across Canada and even parts of America."

"What kinds of motocross would you do?"

"Supercross and freestyle. I was extremely good at freestyle. My most difficult move that I mastered was the Ruler. I mean, I've conquered more difficult moves than that in the years to come but that was my first hard move I've ever done. I remember when I first tried that trick . . . I broke my collar bone, two ribs, and got a major concussion. It wasn't until five months later until I could even get on my dirt bike again."

"What kind of bike do you drive?"

"What kind of bikes. My first one was a Yamaha. When I grew out of it I had a Suzuki. After I grew out of that one I had another Yamaha. Then after I grew out of that one, that's when I stopped growing, I had five other bikes that I kept around. I kind of liked collecting the bikes. I still have all of them. The last five were two Yamahas, a Suzuki, a Kawasaki, and a KTM . . . Oh wait, I had a Honda too. I have a Can-Am quad but I can't really count that, can I? So total I have nine dirt bikes and a quad. My number through my entire career never changed. It was always twelve. I like twelve. My color schemes changed though of course. Changed with my bike. But I always made sure my outfits matched my bike. I got picked on a lot for that. Cuz that's usually what the female riders do."

"That's cool! I want to do motocross too. How long have you done it?" Dib asked.

"For competition or riding in general?"

"Both."

"Okay, I started riding when I was three till now. So that's . . . Holy shit, that's thirty years . . . I feel old. I started competing at the age of six I stopped competing when I was twenty-two because I was leaving for Australia and I met that dumbshit over there." Purple pointed a thumb over to Red who wasn't paying attention. "But in a lot of ways, it was a great thing that happened. Over the seven years that we've know each other, I've grown to love idiotic behavior just a bit more."

"And you met your wife. Don't forget that." ZIM pointed out. Purple smiled softly.

"Yeah. She's great . . . Especially in bed. Ow!" Purple rubbed his temple where someone smacked him, hard. He looked to his right and saw Red glaring at him. "Oh! So you heard that but not when I called you a dumbshit?"

"You called me a dumbshit?" Red growled.

"Yeah! Oof!" Purple went crashing to the hard dirt ground when Red kicked him off his horse. "Oh you stupid bastard." Purple grumbled, climbing back on his horse.

"Tell us another story!" Chester insisted. Purple sighed.

"Mmm, okay, well during a hockey match when I was eighteen, I should start by saying that this is co-ed hockey. During a match, my team was up against a team whose center was a chick. A sexy chick, by the way. And I was a center also, so during the face off, instead of talking smack to me like normal centers do, she started hitting on me. She was telling me all these things that she'd do to me if I was her husband and junk. She was getting pretty inappropriate and her words were distracting me so much that when the ref dropped the puck, she was first to smack it to one of her teams mates. She kept that cheap way of getting the puck every face off we had. I was getting furious by the end of the game because we were loosing and I kept falling for her verbal distraction. At the end of the game I confronted her outside the girl's locker room. Told her off, cussing and throwing a tantrum. By the end of my rant she looked like she was going to cry. I felt bad after that, I always do when I make someone, especially a girl, cry. So I hugged her and, oh God, you won't believe what she did next. She pulled me in the girl's locker room and we . . . we started to make out . . . And that's how I got my fifth girl friend."

"You started making out? Did you even know her name?"

"Hell no! But it was amazing!" Purple beamed at the memory. "She was rough and dominating and a total bitch but I loved it!" Red snorted.

"You're a dork."

"That may be true but damn . . . It was a rush. She pushed me up against the wall right there in the middle of the locker room, girls from both my team and her team were still in the room and they watched the whole thing. I think I got a kick out of having an audience. They were all poking fun at us, laughing and making inappropriate comments about us when we were kissing." Purple looked at the kids. They all had a look of disgust on their features. ". . . Sorry."

"Uhh . . . How about you tell us another story like your Iditarod one?" ZIM said.

"Yeah got anymore dangerous stories to tell us?" Timmy asked.

"Not necessarily a life or death situation like that. There were times where I screwed up so bad that I got into deep, deep, water with my folks and others."

"Like?"

". . . I hit a child with my car once." The younger boys gasped. "He lived! He ran out in front of me. I was only going ten miles per hour because I was leaving a subdivision where my friend lived."

"Did you break him?" Red asked.

"When my car hit him, it wasn't the impact that hurt him as much as the fall that did. He had a broken wrist. His mom sued me, but it's her fault for not paying attention to her child and it's his fault for being a stupid little fucking piece of shi-" Purple cut himself off when he realized that he was becoming upset at the memory. He took a deep breath. "The kid's fault for not looking both ways."

"Who won that lawsuit?" Red smiled, already knowing the answer by the way his friend reacted.

"They did. They accused me of being 'a reckless driver'. I became thirty thousand dollars less rich that day." Purple scowled deeply. He looked like he wanted to punch something. "And my parents screamed at me and grounded me for three months."

"How old were you?"

"Seventeen. The kid was like ten. So he should've known better right? Apparently not because I hit that bastard." Purple mumbled. "Should've hit 'im harder . . ." Red chuckled.

"How about a lighter topic. Tell us about you and your sister's relationship."

"Oh! Marzi was always mean to me . . . Or maybe I was just being an annoying little brother . . . Huh, I never thought of that. That's probably why she always yelled at me." Purple looked off in the distance, talking to himself about his epiphany he just had. "I should really apologize."

"Pur!"

"Wha-? Oh! We'd bicker like normal siblings until she reached the age of fourteen. She became more mature, calm, and mellow. She was extremely nice to me when she hit that age. I guess that's what high school did to her. Huh! I could tell ya what high school did to me but it really isn't all that impressive."

"What did it do to you?" Red asked.

"Well, it's when I started to discover all these new talents and weird functions of mine. Like after every time I hiccup I burp. I'm extremely flexible and can do the splits. I became very good at playing any percussion instrument. I could hold my breath for over two minutes. I was a rather good figure skater. Mom made me do ballet for a year to skate like that." Purple muttered, inaudibly. "I could pop my shoulder out of it's socket. I could do a back and front hand spring. I would always run into the side of the door frame when entering a room . . . Yeah, things like that. There's so much more." Purple scratched his head. "I'm pretty lame."

"No you're not! Except for that ballet part. You can do the splits! That'd hurt my gonads if I tried that!" Timmy exclaimed. "Show us!" Purple looked back at him.

"We're kind of riding right now."

"Lets break for the night." Red decided just then. "So Purple can show us his gymnast body." Red ordered his horse to halt. The animals following also stopped. The boys all unloaded and got themselves situated for the night. They all shook the cramps and tiredness from their bodies.

"Kay, Pur. Lets see it." Dib urged. The man sighed, rolling his eyes.

"Fine. One time." Purple said. "What do you want to see? Side split or straddle split."

"Do the hard split where one foot is forward and the other is behind you." Timmy told him. Purple crossed his arms and without a warning, dropped down. Legs fully extended completely touching the ground, left foot in the front of him, right, behind. Not a space was in between him and the floor. The boys all gawked at this.

"It's called the left side split." Purple pushed himself back up. "And I only learned how to do the splits because a friend pushed me all the way down when we were younger . . . The jerk."

"Do the middle one!" Chester said.

"Nah. I'm done for today." The boys disappointedly looked from Purple to Red.

"What? I can't do that shit. Besides, I'm not here to entertain you."

"At least try doing it." ZIM smiled. Red groaned.

"Might as well. Bored out of my wits anyway." Red started slid his feet apart to do a middle split. He got down rather far before stopping three inches off the ground. "Hoo! This hurts right here. Obviously a few years of MMA fighting didn't really pay off." Red presented himself to the boys by stretching out his arms. "This is it, blokes. This is where I stop." Red felt a pair of hands on either of his shoulders, then suddenly with a quick, heavy push, his legs slammed down to the ground doing the full splits. Red shouted with terrible pain shooting through his adductor muscles. He put his hands on the ground and rolled himself over and tried to close his legs but it was much to painful to bring them together. Purple was by his side, overlooking his friend to see if he was somewhat alright.

"Timmy! You never, ever do that to someone who can't do the splits! You caused him serious injury! He probably has a torn muscle now."

"That's how Doctor Kinley learned! How was I supposed to know, Brainiac?"

"Uh, it's pretty obvious!" Red growled from his position, laying on his back, legs akimbo to prevent further discomfort.

"Give that boy a wedgie." Red whispered harshly to his friend. "A bad one. One that will burn his ugly human butt crack." Purple grinned.

"Ahh, Red, at least you're still in good spirits."

"No I'm not. I'm furious." Red sat up, sorely rubbing his inner thighs. "Ugh! Yeah, yeah, I tore something. I can feel gap on both of my legs."

"Damn, we need ice for that." Purple stood back up, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

"I can't close my legs." Red whined.

"That makes you sound like a horny slut."

"It hurts." Red ignored ZIM's comment. Purple shook his head.

"Here. I know how to deal with these. Give me one of your legs and I'll help you stretch it."

"No! No, no. I'm just gonna . . . stay where I am." ZIM laughed at his brother.

"Looks like you're riding side saddle tomorrow, Princess!"

Later

"Come on, guys. Please get started on the fire. It's getting cold rapidly." Dib whined to the Irkens who were doing nothing besides making fun of each other and bickering. Dib sighed. They weren't hearing him. Chester and Timmy were mourning for themselves as if they were absolutely going to die. A.J. was sitting by Dib sulking that no one was paying attention to their situation. Dib groaned running a frustrated hand through his hair. "You guys, please! It's getting late! We're going to freeze tonight if we don't have a fire!" Still, no one acknowledged him. Dib was getting annoyed. Surely they'd be concerned about these things? "That's it!" Dib snapped, standing up. His yell was loud enough to get their attentions. Dib pointed at Timmy and Chester. "You two are panicking morons!" He moved his index finger over to Red, Purple, and ZIM. "And you guys are taking this situation all too lightly! Are A.J. and I the only ones here with full brains?" The five stood in silence, looking at Dib for the longest time. After awhile Purple finally answered.

"Well," He started, putting on a lecturing tone. "Red and I both share a brain." He stated. He tilted his head in the direction of the two human boys. "I don't think those two even have brains. And ZIM definitely has a brain, he just doesn't use it." ZIM smiled innocently.

"It hurts to think." Dib's jaw dropped. He stared at them flabbergasted. He closed his mouth and turned his head to A.J.

"It's been nice knowing you."

"Oh, lighten up, Dibbers!" Red said. "I've been lost in the wilderness multiple times and I only ever died once!" Purple looked awestruck, pursing his lips, nodding his head in admiration.

"Wow, that's not too bad." Red smiled.

"I know! I'm doing really good." Dib face palmed.

"Will you two just act like adults for a minute and help us out? We're only children! We don't know what to do! We don't know how to deal with situations like this! We have no basic survival skills because we never had to go into survival mode before like you guys did! So please, grow up!" Red and Purple scowled at Dib. The boy suddenly felt really uncomfortable, scared even. "I . . . I'm sorry. That was out of line. It won't happen again." The two oldest Irkens' glares never wavered. Dib scratched the back of his neck embarrassed. "Sorry." He said again. Purple and Red shared a glance then back to Dib. A few more awkward moments passed when finally Purple decided to pull out his handgun and walked off.

"I'm gonna go shoot at lizards and pretend they're Dib's head!" He yelled, obviously joking. ZIM rolled his eyes.

"Dillon's right though. You two are immature brats."

"I'm gonna pretend they're ZIM's head too!" Purple called from the distance he walked. Red groaned.

"I'll build you guys a fire if you'll stop bitchin'."

"Thank you." Dib sighed.

"Whatever." Red mumbled, crouching down to where he'll make the fire.

"Did I . . . upset you?" Dib asked. Red slowly turned around to face Dib. His eyes menacing.

"I just want something from you in return for being disrespectful to your elders." Dib nodded.

"Sure. What do you need me to do?" Red stood in front of Dib.

"I wanna freaking hug." Dib squinted his eyes confused. "Dude, you're like my best friend and I never got a hug from you yet." Dib heard ZIM mutter something about his brother being an idiot under his breath.

"Uh, okay." Dib wrapped his arms around Red's waist awkwardly. Red patted his head then rudely pushed him away.

"Alright. That's enough, you weirdo." Red tended to making the fire. "You and ZIM go make yourselves useful by staying away from me." Dib walked with ZIM away from the site.

"Dude, what the heck is wrong with him?" Dib asked. ZIM shrugged.

"Zee and Tenn often tell me that he would always run head first into walls when he was a teenager on accident. The funny thing is, I still see him do that." ZIM chuckled. "And I kid you not, he'll be looking at his phone and he wouldn't see where he was going. One time, I was down stairs in our living room when I heard what sounded like a door slamming. A few seconds later Red came down the steps holding his head and all he said was, 'So Purple and I were playing hide and seek and I started to run and I thought the door was open but it wasn't'." Dib cracked up.

"So you're saying he's loosing brain cells by hitting his head on doors and walls? That'd explain a lot." Dib said.

"Yeah. He's not the only one with faults in the fam though . . . but he does more of them than he rest of us."

"There's always that one crazy sibling."

"So true."

"I'd expected that to be you." ZIM looked at Dib.

"Huh!" ZIM thought about it. "Maybe you're right, actually."

That Night

Two adult Irkens sat on the ground, leaning up against their horses to support their backs as they watched the dancing flames of the fire before them. They were engaged in a private conversation.

"So . . . You really did sleep around when you were a teen." Red didn't respond for awhile. He just fidgeted with his hands, ashamed with himself.

"Yeah. I've been living this lie ever since . . . Well, ever since I first lost my virginity."

"I must say, you were very convincing all this time." Purple said.

"You're the only one who knows besides my ex lovers and mom and I think dad knew too. Of course, mum passed so . . . I don't know if she still counts."

"Really? Why would you-"

"I didn't even tell Les. Like from the first time she asked me if I lost my virginity, I lied to her. Telling her the truth now is just out of the question. She won't be able to trust me. Especially if she finds out that I'd sometimes do it for money." Purple's jaw dropped.

"Money? Y-you were a gigolo?"

"Sort of. I mean, not all the girls I slept with were my girlfriends so . . ."

"How do you not have an STD?"

"Kununurra is pure of that stuff. The only way an STD could be spread there was if someone from out of town came by and did the you-know-what with whatever-local-got-laid. You know the rest. I'm just so . . . I can't believe I got away with all these lies."

"You truly do have the most mysterious past out of everyone I know."

"I'm sorry to say this but there's lots more secrets untold. You'll figure them out in time. I'm aware of my sketchy background, and infamous sexual drive from my past and how it might unnerve you. Being practically a male prostitute is nothing to be proud of. So please keep this between you and me."

"Of course." Purple said. "Just to be clear here, though, I care about Leslie, have you engaged in any sexual relations with any other woman after marriage?" Red took in a deep breath.

"I try to be as faithful as possible. I haven't intentionally done something like that."

"Intentionally? What are you implying?"

"Drunk nights at the bar-"

"So you have cheated-"

"No, no! You're jumping to conclusions." Red put his hands up in defense. "Girls would take advantage of me. Especially girls that just so happen to be big fans."

"What would they do?"

"Well, I'm drunk and I'm not really conscious of what they were doing. I know what they were doing but I couldn't stop them because it never processed until after I sobered up. I was touched, licked, slapped, kissed, pinched in all suggestive places. If the club was particularly full, I'd have hands all over me and I would never be able to tell who was grabbing at me." Red shook his head. "I officially stopped partying about a year and a half ago when one girl took it a little to far when I was still in my right mind."

"Oh God. What'd she do?"

"I was with a man associated with Jalokia when a Vortian chick approached, stripped right in front of us and straddled me. Tried putting her hand down the front of my pants."

"How'd you deal with the situation?"

"Pushed her off, of course. What else would I do?" Red looked at Purple who in turn, looked disappointedly back at him. "I'm not perfect. I wish I'm not as stupid as I am now, but it's in my nature to be ridiculously clueless common sense-wise." Purple turned his gaze back to the fire.

"Totally alright. I cheated too- Not on Tenn! But I still cheated on a poor girl nonetheless. The worst part was, I shattered both of these girls' hearts, I dumped them both to go out with their mutual friend. That was like a slap in the face to them. I also made it very clear to them that I didn't care that what I did was wrong. In fact, I told them both to fuck off and find another guy to 'share'. I was going through a rough time then. But I'm not sure if that's a good excuse."

"So you were a heart breaker too, eh? Join my club of assholery." Red said.

"I'll past, but maybe I'll reconsider later." A long silence lingered between the both of them. Both were contemplating and taking in what the other had just admitted to. "Any other dark secrets you're keeping from me?" Red swallowed hard, nodding.

"I feel like I should tell Leslie first though."

"Understood. While were still making confessions to one another, I might as well tell you that as a boy I was molested." Red sat straight up.

"No!"

"Yes. Unfortunately." Purple said. "You're story about how you were almost raped from earlier today reminded me of my darker past."

"May I ask by whom?"

"Uncle."

"God damn. Are you really, truly, serious?" Purple nodded.

"From age five to age fifteen when he finally got caught. My mom walked in on the act."

"Fifteen? Fuck."

"Yeah, I was fifteen so I still remember that night very well. He came for a visit and was going to spend the night. I was lying in bed, on the verge of sleep when I heard him walk in. I got scared like I always did. I didn't even turn around to look at him. He climbed in my bed, spooned me and well . . . Ya know. He'd make it more pleasurable for him by grinding on my rear. He'd talk dirty and I mean like, filthy, disgusting things. He hurt me all the time. He had really thick fingers and rough hands, kind of a brute really." Purple drew up his knees to rest his chin on them. "So on this night, he undressed me, pinned me, shoved his grubby fingers in a place they shouldn't have been, and bit me repeatedly. He'd full on chomp on my shoulder and collarbone. I wasn't allowed to scream. My bedroom door never had a lock on it so it's a miracle he hasn't gotten caught sooner. My mom walked in to kiss me goodnight. When she turned on the lights and saw what was going on, mom screamed and nearly fainted when she saw me being abused in that way. As soon as I locked eyes with her, I started balling from embarrassment and because I thought my uncle was going to kill her on the spot, rape her dead body, and have me watch as he did. But that simply wasn't the case. He never had the intentions of killing my sister or mother, he just used it to get me to shut my mouth." Purple let out a halfhearted chuckle. "Mom went ballistic as you can imagine. She grabbed a sword and pointed-"

"A sword?"

"Yes . . . A sword."

"Where would she . . ."

"It's an upperclass French-Irken family thing, you wouldn't understand." Purple said. "Anyway, she stabbed him. Not deeply, but she stabbed his side thigh making him collapse on top of me. She pushed him off, grabbed my arm and yanked me off the bed and used her body to separate me from him. All this commotion woke up my father and sister and they came running. My family really knows how to work as a team in situations like that oddly enough. Sister called the cops, dad went to beat the fucker senseless and mom was being mom. The cops arrived and they brought me in for DNA testing for some reason even though my entire family and I were witnesses. They had to shove cotton swab things inside of me and duh, the DNA test came out positive and uncle was thrown in jail for a few years."

"I bet you're thankful your mother walked in that night."

"It was for the best. It was still the most embarrassing thing she's ever seen done to me."

"Yes, but imagine what it must've been like to he her. Walking in to your child's bedroom to kiss them goodnight, and see a family member on top of them defiling them. I mean, if that ever happened to ZIM or Sapphira for Christ's sake, even Gaz, I'd be horrified! And I may even become a murderer too."

"I'd admire your loyalty and commitment to your family. I wouldn't know what it's like to see a child of mine be mistreated like that . . . but of course, I just so happened to be that child. Victim of sexual abuse." Purple thought for a minute. "But I do suppose ZIM is my brother, and Sapphira is my niece, I suppose Gaz technically is too, maybe I would be able to imagine what it'd be like to witness that happen to them. But I don't want to imagine it. But rest assured, I'd go through all that hell again if it was either me or them." Red smiled.

"You'll make a good father someday." Purple chuckled hoarsely.

"I don't see a smeet in the future. Not for awhile anyhow. We only just got married this year. We can take it slow for now, but shit, I wouldn't complain if we had one now. Sapphira is my first niece and seeing you and her relationship, it's beautiful. I'd like to be able to connect with someone like that." Purple looked at Red. "My mother practically raised me to have fatherly instinct. She wants grandchildren bad, that's for sure. However she's scared that bad things will happen to them like me. She had to go through that heartbreak once. Never again would she want to face that."

"Is that why she's so protective of you?"

"Oh yes. Most definitely. For a few months after the incident she slept with me, stayed in the washroom with me as I bathed or showered, even went to school with me."

"How'd she get away with that?"

"She knew my principal." Purple said.

"Why not Marzi protect you at school?"

"She was already graduated. She's eight years older, remember?"

"Oh that's right."

"And also remember, I was fifteen. I was made fun of by my peers for having my mom suddenly come to school with me and watch my every move. But we couldn't let anyone find out why she was doing it. So the excuse was that I had an Irken illness in which needed to be constantly surveyed. It was a weak excuse, but it worked. My teachers knew exactly what happened. They kind of needed to know."

"Insanity. Childhood trauma? If any?"

"I'm still traumatized but I don't like to dwell on it." Purple said. "I need to tell Tenn eventually."

"You haven't told her yet?"

"Just like you didn't tell Les that you slept around as a teen." Red went quiet.

"Point across. I'm sorry, mate. Where is this uncle now?"

"Out of jail with a restraining order against him. Five meters. He's not allowed to show up at any family functions either."

"Mom's bro, or dad's?"

"Mom. He was way whacky. Even growing up he threatened to rape my mom and their sisters on several occasions."

"Shit, man. That's dysfunctional."

"He was kicked out when he was seventeen. But he came back later a 'changed man'. Then five decades after, I was born. I'm surprised he didn't target Marzi. He tried with some of my older cousins but they were old enough and strong enough to take him. I was young and innocent. I'm the smeet of the extended family. Just like ZIM, therefore an easy target."

"Just molestation? He didn't rape?" Purple didn't speak for a long while.

"I don't even remember. It's all equally bad, isn't it? I just remember his hands violating me."

"And he would do this often?"

"Every chance he got."

"Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"He had me convinced that he'll kill my mother and sister and rape their corpses if I did."

"Sick, twisted man."

"He was." Purple sighed. "It feels good getting that off my chest. I'd remember my past from time to time. I don't know if you ever noticed, but when I isolate myself or throw myself into work, that's me remembering and trying to get my mind off it."

"I had no idea."

"Well, you'll remember now for future reference."

"Do me a favor and tell your wife."

"Red, I . . . I wouldn't know how to tell her. It would seem random if I suddenly walked up to her and said, 'By the way, I was molested as a child'."

"She deserves to know more than I do. And yet, you still told me before her." Purple said.

"What about you? Will you tell Leslie you really were a whore back then?" Red bit his lip.

"That's different though. That was requited sex. Not forced." Red scratched the back of his neck. "On your wedding night . . . Were you bashful?"

"I tried not to be. I mean, it's been a long time since the last day I was defiled to the day of my marriage." Purple said. "So it's possible I forgot a lot of things that's happened. But I did remember on my wedding night. Right before we gave ourselves away to one another, it came back to haunt me but I didn't show it . . . I was more embarrassed of my E.D." Red snickered. Purple shot him a glare. Red stifled as best as he could.

"Sorry, mate, not funny. I know. Sorry." Purple rolled his eyes.

"It's fine." Purple looked up at the stars. "I'll tell her when I get a chance, if you tell Leslie about what you did. Like you said, the wife deserves to know more than the friend." Red thought about it for a moment.

"Alright, Peder. I'll confess to her. And as soon as I do, I'll tell you that I told her. But then you must tell Tenn."

"'Kay, it's a deal. We should sleep now. Got some distance to go tomorrow." Red nodded in agreement.

"Night, then." The two hunkered down. Making themselves as warm as possible. Unbeknownst to them, a little Irken lied awake, mouth agape in shock. A few tears ran down his cheek. Red, a whore? And Peder, poor Peder, a victim of sexual abuse. How could this be?

You're brother, Red, is no good. He's a liar. He lied about being pure, he's probably lying when he says he loves you too, hmm?

"Maybe." ZIM whispered. "Maybe you're right."

Just play dumb for now. Don't want to let him know that you know he hates you.

August 9, 2001

Morning

"What's ahead, Zimmy?" ZIM beamed looking at the boys and his brothers as he had his horse trot back to them. Red sent him out to scope the trail ahead to see the landscape and terrain before them.

"Good news! I see the start of the Kimberley in the distance!" ZIM shouted to them. "We're well off!" Red grinned.

"Good!" Red turned to Purple. "This may sound a bit scary but we're going to have to veer from the highway. The highway makes a huge loop way beyond the road for Kununurra. That'd just be a lot of extra travel time. We can cut through the rainforest and get home quicker."

"Ho boy." Purple sucked in a big breath. "That, uh . . . Well, you'd know best. Lets do it." Red looked at the young boys all sitting by the camels.

"Get ready to saddle up boys! We're near an oasis." Red sorely stood. His thighs still killing from yesterday's incident. He half waddled to his horse. "We gotta find fresh water quick. The horses are dying of thirst. Camels should be fine." The children groaned all standing and getting on their designated camels. "Alright, lets carry on." Red crawled on his horse. He cringed when he straddled the horses' back. "Ya know what, Zeiden? That side saddle thing doesn't sound so bad right now." ZIM chuckled. The gang of seven proceeded to ride west, homeward bound.

Meanwhile

"We had no luck in finding them." A tall man in a ranger's uniform told the women. Tenn, Zee, and Leslie looked distressed.

"You searched the entire length of the highway?" Tenn asked. The ranger nodded.

"We're sorry. We found the abandoned truck. They probably veered off the path. Stewart does have a huge loop and doesn't take a direct path to this town. We still have scouts searching but there's nothing on their location." Tenn frowned, looking at her lap, hands folded neatly in front of her. She sighed.

"I guess we'll have to continue to wait." She said, softly.

"Guess so." Leslie leaned back on one of the dining room chairs. Her daughter in arms. "It's been four days for them wandering the desert. They could be malnourished or dehydrated or sick . . . or maybe had an encounter with a wild animal."

"They have guns." Zee said. "Papa always has guns in his trucks. He doesn't ever go anywhere without one."

"I'll be sure to keep you ladies updated." The ranger said. He bowed his head to them and left the home.

"Red is such an idiot. You'd think he'd learn after getting lost in the desert before to bring an extra gas can." Zee muttered. "He's always doing shit like that." Leslie pursed her lips, scowling. "No offense." Zee told her.

"I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at the truth behind what you just said." Leslie kissed the top of her smeet's head. "Ugh, he gives me grey hairs, that man."

"He does that to everyone." Tenn said. "Purple has to take some responsibility for the stupidity. He should have known to bring the extra gas can too."

"Nothing yet?" Nana asked, entering the home.

"Not a word." Zee told her grandmother.

"Meh, devona migh dju." The woman muttered to herself. "When that boy gets home, he'll get an antenna full."

"I figured you'd say that." Tenn said.

"Tenn, dear, please help me in the parlour. A dairy died on me when a hand tried hooking her up to the machine." Tenn nodded.

"Sure, nana." She said. She stood and smoothed her hand over her stomach then left the home to help.

Later

"I don't feel well." ZIM whined. He wiped his forehead. He was sweating. "I think I'm going to have a seizure." Red looked back at his brother. They were nearly by the edge of the Kimberley. The forest just meters away.

"You sure?" Red asked. ZIM nodded.

"I feel it, Red." The man commanded his horse to halt. The line of camels behind it followed suit. Red slid off his horse and walked over to ZIM's horse. He reached up and took his brother off the animal's back. He held his smeet brother in his arms for a bit before setting him down.

"Why'd we stop?" Timmy demanded.

"ZIM's sick." Red told him.

"Huh, when isn't he?" Timmy groaned. Red sat by his brother and cradled his body, swaying slightly back and forth to sooth the child as much as he could.

"Just tell me when you feel like you're about to convulse." ZIM nodded again. His breathing started to get shallower and shallower. Soon he stopped breathing all together. Red laid the boy's body down. ZIM's friends peered over to watch his seizure commence. ZIM started shaking slightly. Red glared at his friends. "Gents, can he have some privacy please?" The four boys' heads all turned. Adverting their gazes from the action. ZIM made a humming noise. Red backed up a bit so ZIM wouldn't seize and hit him. The boy's limbs jerked some, his eyes closing, teeth gritted. Red watched ZIM, helplessly. Purple walked up behind Red.

"He alright?"

"Yeah. It's a mild seizure. It'll end in a minute." Red waited the seizure out. Soon ZIM's humming and shaking came to a halt. Red put his hand on ZIM's cheek to sooth him. "You're okay bud, you're fine."

...

Look at you. Holding them up! You're slowing them down because of your stupid epilepsy. Useless. Stupid. Broken. Defect.

ZIM gasped sitting straight up. His body was caught and held by someone, he couldn't tell who. His mind was all over the place and he couldn't seem to come to his senses. "No. No. No, keep going. Don't stop because of me." ZIM whimpered, blindly gripping whoever was holding him.

"ZIM, the horses need a break anyway. You're fine." ZIM shook his head, panting.

"No . . . Keep moving . . . Broken." ZIM sucked in a shuddery breath. His eyes finally focussing. He was staring at the ground. He turned his head up to see the face of his embracer. Red. No big surprise.

Just slow them down some more, defect. Why don't you just hold them up until they die of starvation?

ZIM cringed at the sarcastic voices. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a figure. He looked to his right and saw a tall, dark, silhouette-like creature wearing a hood. It stood at least eight feet tall and the only feature that he could make out was the dark red eyes, gleaming down at him. It was holding something, a scythe it looked like. ZIM's eyes widened at the sight of the ghastly being. The figure stretched out a silhouetted arm, long spindly fingers reaching towards him. At the ends of the fingers, sharp tipped finger nails.

You'll be mine soon.

ZIM gasped, petrified at the trickery that his tired mind played before him. He couldn't move a muscle, he was so scared.

"D-death. Merackma bru tola!" ZIM screamed. He tried scrambling to his feet, but was held by his older brother. "No, no! He's gonna get me!" ZIM fought with all his might to free himself from his brother's grasp.

"Zeiden! Stop! Stop! There's nothing there!" Red tried reasoning with the boy. ZIM used his claw-like fingers to scratch Red. The claws digging into his older brother's flesh. Red winced at it but did not loosen up his grip. "Zeiden, enough! You're fine! You're hallucinating!" ZIM felt another pair if hands grab him. He shouted with fright and anger.

"Please! Please, stop!" He could feel himself being laid on the dirt ground. A set of hands holding his wrists and another pair holding his ankles.

"Dillon, Austin, come here. We need your help." ZIM heard Purple's voice call to his friends. He heard his other brother tell them to each hold one of ZIM's wrists in place of the hands that were already holding them. ZIM's felt hands on his cheeks. Holding his head still.

"Open your eyes!" ZIM slowly cracked his eyes open. He came face-to-face with Red. "Look at me, child. There's nothing here that will hurt you. It's just you, me, your friends, and that dork over there." Red tilted his head toward Purple. "No one else. Nothing that will hurt you." ZIM pouted. Red's hands caressed his cheek, lovingly. "You see? You're alright, babe." Red kissed ZIM's temple.

Your whore of a brother is lying.

"You're fine."

You most certainly are not fine.

Later

"Finally . . . We made it to the edge. We won't have to deal with the desert as much anymore." Red informed the boys. "We need to find water quick. The horses need it bad." Red's eyes scanned the grassy and muddy terrain before them. Huge trees and bushes surrounded the area. Rocks and boulders were strewn about. This is where the tricky part came. More wild animals that they had to watch out for. Gorges and cliffs and mighty rivers. Mountains that would need to be scaled. It won't be easy, but they have to move on. Red looked back to his brother. He was staring at his lap.

He didn't mutter a word since after his seizure. He was embarrassed that he had an episode in front of his friends where he freaked out about something that wasn't there. But he had no reason to be embarrassed. His friends didn't mention it. At all. In fact, they wouldn't even think twice about ZIM's hallucinations. They were probably well aware that hallucinations were inevitable especially when you're out in the middle of a desert, lacking water, and over heating. But ZIM knew that wasn't the case. He was seeing things for awhile. And he was absolutely convinced that there really were people, or rather, shadows, there. There to torment him and disturb him and most of all, to make him hate himself. His lack of medications spiked up this behavior even more.

"How your legs feelings now?" ZIM's thoughts were interrupted by Purple's voice. "Because by the look of the landscape ahead, we may have to carry on with just our legs." The corner of Red's mouth curled downwards.

"You're probably right. Nana is gonna kill me if I leave our horses and camels behind. Had to leave papa's truck too. Hopefully he won't be as upset."

"He's a millionaire. He'll buy a brand new one." ZIM muttered. "One that won't suck gas as much as a slut sucks dick." Red cocked a brow at ZIM's comment.

"Okay, that was a good one and all but watch your mouth. I don't like talk like that coming from you."

"I think she knew you were gonna run out of gas in the middle of the desert. Cuz why else would she send us with a horse trailer?" Purple asked.

"I had a feeling that she knew too." Red muttered. "It's not like this hasn't happened to me before." Red looked back at the young boys. They all looked like they were trying to sleep but were having a rough time by the constant motion and intense heat. "We'll continue on until we can't take the horses no further. Then we have to say goodbye and let them go back to their natural roots. Wild and free." He patted his horses neck. His hand was damp from the sweat of the animal. "Okay, now to find water." They pushed on, animals on a leisurely walk, to find the next available source of fresh water. They rode for a few miles, the vegetation getting denser and denser as they traveled deeper into the heart of the Kimberley. It wasn't before long when they came across a spring. The ground was patchy with grass and boulders surrounded the spring. It was right next to a rising in the earth, a cliff, and had the smallest of waterfalls streaming down from it. They couldn't even really classify it as a waterfall. More like water dribbling down the rocks into the pool below. Red sighed with relief. He commanded his horse to halt. He dismounted and led his horse to the water. The horse practically emerged it's entire head into the crystal clear water. Purple and ZIM's horses followed suit. ZIM started stripping himself of his boots and his pants, but oddly enough, kept his shirt on. He waded out into the spring with his boxers and long sleeve still on him.

"The water feels amazing!" ZIM called. "It's so cold." And with that note, ZIM fell back into the depths of the spring and cooled himself completely. Red heard the sound of two squealing boys and before he could even look back to see what the ruckus was about, a dash of two, naked, white boys ran in front of him and dove into the water. ZIM had a look of pure disgust as he saw Chester and Timmy go underneath and flail about in the pond. "God! Clothe yourselves, pig-smellies."

"ZIM's in character! What a freak!"

"He always smells good!"

"His eyes are gumdrops." Red chuckled as the two boys shouted random things. He assumed it was the heat causing them to do crazy things, like shamelessly getting naked in front of their friends and screaming like wild animals while splashing water at the other. Red unsheathed his long blade knife, keeping it in his hand as he pulled his shirt up and over his head, took off his boots, and also dropped his pants so he was in nothing but his black boxers. Purple did the same.

"The two sexy underwear models are joining us!"

"They smell good too!" Red and Purple smirked, shaking their heads at the two humans' ridiculous comments. They waded out, steering clear of the nude boys. Not too much longer passed until A.J. and Dib also joined in on the fun. ZIM invited the boys over to him and asked them if they wanted to be baptized. ZIM had the false belief he was an ordained minister. The little Irken dipped Dib into the water, when he brought his friend back up he shouted,

"Now you belong to the holy family of Jesus Christ! Amen! Children of God rejoice!" ZIM sounded like a black, minister from the south of America. Dib rolled his eyes, muttering something about being agnostic. ZIM playfully slapped Dib on the back. "Hey! This is a good opportunity to teach Purple how to swim." ZIM smiled at Red. Purple shook his head.

"I'm only in here to cool off." Red scooted closer to Purple.

"Aww, c'mon buddy. It's not too hard." Purple took a few slow steps back. They would've been quicker if not for the water.

"Stay away from me." Red gave ZIM an evil grin. He jumped up and put all his body weight on Purple's shoulders. The unexpected weight caused him to get dunked under the water. This caught Purple by surprise and he got a mouthful of water. He came up sputtering. Red laughed.

"Lesson one: Don't breath under water."

"Wow! Thanks, jerk! Without your brilliant wisdom I probably would have drowned by now!" Red smiled and patted the other man's head. His eye then caught something that moved on the bank. That something slid nearly silently into the water. Red's jaw slackened having an idea of what it could be.

"Umm . . . Pur, boys, get to shore now." Red said. Purple was already making his way towards shore anyway, being peeved at his friend for dunking him.

"Planning on it anyway, asshole."

"What's wrong, Red?" ZIM asked.

"Just get to shore-"

"What is it?"

"Get. To. Shore." Red glared at ZIM, hissing at him through gritted teeth. ZIM raised his brows at this but he and his pals all got out of the water. Red remained in the center of the small pond in waist-deep water. His eyes were glued to the still water, he gradually walked to a spot of the pond where it was shaded by the trees and murky by mud. Without warning, Red stuck the blade in between his teeth and submerged into the water. The guys observed from the bank. They had no idea what Red was up to. Red's body had disappeared as soon as he went under. There was two sets of air bubbles that went up to the surface. One set belonging to Red the other set belonged to something swimming right toward where Red's bubbles were. ZIM's eyes went wide with realization.

"Ooooh." He gawked. His friends looked at him in wonder of what his epiphany was. Before they could ask however, wild thrashing from the pond ensued. The disturbed water created huge waves as an unseen fight commenced below the surface. The human boys were awestruck. Red has been under the surface for half a minute and now something crazy was happening and they had no idea what it was. ZIM and Purple didn't seem concerned however. After another few seconds of intense thrashing of the water, it stilled and a pool of red blood spread out in the water. Then nothing. No more movement, Red didn't rise to the surface, whatever happened, it wasn't good.

"Oh my God." Dib said. "Is he alright?" ZIM shrugged. More long moments passed with no sign of the eldest. ZIM was about to enter the water when the surface broke and up came a gasping, bloody Red. He was knifeless now. The questions as to what was going on were answered a second after he surfaced, the body of a dead, fresh water croc floated up as well. The knife plunged into its neck. Fortunately, that was what was bleeding. Not Red. ZIM smiled broadly. Red grinned at him.

"Got us dinner."

August 10, 2001

Red groaned at the task ahead of them. He ran a hand over his antenna, looking down to the bottom of the massive crack in the earth. "Well," He started, petting his horse's mane. "Guess this is goodbye, mate."

"Do we have to leave our horses?" Purple asked.

"Looks like. This gorge stretches on for many kilometers in both directions." Red said, regretfully. Purple opened his mouth to make a suggestion. "And no, we're not gonna eat the horses, you stupid Canadian." Purple closed his mouth again, pouting. He then tried to make another suggestion. "Or the camels." Purple scowled.

"Fuck you, Red."

"No thanks." Red grabbed the saddlebags off the horses back. He took off all the tack the horse had on, bridle and all. He gave his horse one last stroke down the nose before slapping it's hip. It bolted off in a sprint in a random direction. Purple and ZIM did the same. Then ZIM helped with the dromedaries. "Unfortunately these bags are not backpacks. They're made for horses' backs and horses' backs only. So this is gonna be one of our many challenges from here on out. But the first main challenge as of right now is getting down into the bottom of this gorge then scaling it to get back up." Red pointed to where the earth ended then picked up again quarter of a mile away. "It's a good thing we have climbing gear. Anyone ever descended a cliff before?" ZIM and Purple seemed to be the only ones who had. "Alright, well that's another challenge." Red reached into one of the bags and pulled out ropes and safety harnesses. He went to the edge of the cliff and tied one long rope around a sturdy tree. He then threw the remaining rope into the pit. He put the harness on himself and clipped it to the rope. "I'll go down first to see if it's safe. Peder, you go down last once the boys are safely down."

"Do we have enough harnesses?" Red froze as he was about to propel down.

". . . No." Red sighed. He took off the harness. "We have three. I won't use one, ZIM is good at climbing up and down ropes, I seen how he works. I swear he's part monkey. I'd think you're strong enough to handle your own body weight." Red looked at the boys. "One of you boys will have to go down without a harness either." They all looked at one another. After awhile Dib raised his hand.

"If I fall, you'll be there to catch me, right?" Dib asked. Red smiled warmly at the boy.

"Of course." Red grabbed onto the rope again, put his feet on the very edge and leaned his body over. He slowly used his arms to crawl down the rope, his legs intertwined with the rope for assurance. He just hoped that the other boys would propel properly down the cliff. Slowly but surely, inch by inch, Red got closer to the bottom which had to be at least fifty feet down. Red muttered a silent prayer. He soon found himself at the bottom. He looked up. "Alright! Zeiden, you first!" Red kept his gaze upwards. The rope swung at the disturbance from the top of the cliff and soon ZIM was hanging over the edge. ZIM let himself down quicker than Red had. Of course Red was being cautious, ZIM just seemed like he wanted to keep getting going with things. Once ZIM was down, the two waited for Purple to give instructions to the younger boys, strapping them into the harnesses and sending them down one-by-one with all the bags strapped to them. A.J. first followed by Chester, Timmy, then Dib. The poor boy was scared to death having to go down with no safety reassurance. Dib was slowest of them all. Making his way down. No one made a sound in fears that it might spook him. Dib peaked down and nearly threw a fit. He mentally screamed, swore, and cursed himself for putting himself up for the task. Dib was only ten feet away from the ground when his tired hands started slipping. He clutched onto the rope as he slid all the way down into Red's grasp. He cried out in pain at the rope burn. He held out his shaky hands and blew on them, hoping that that'll sooth it. Blood was starting to pour out of the abrasion. As Purple lowered himself, Red knelt down, Dib sitting on his knee, and inspected the damage. "Hurts, mate, I know. Years of wrangling and roping, my hands have permanent scars from burns like this." Red gathered saliva in his mouth and spit it into Dib's hands. The boy cringed, not expecting the man to do that at all. "Rub your hands together and throw some dirt on it. Sorry to sound insincere, trust me I really feel for you, but I need you to toughen up because you now have to climb up the cliff." Once all were down, the party of seven walked to the opposite side to begin scaling the steep cliff. Red scratched his head. "Okay boys, we won't have any safety devices for this. Just beware of your footing and keep a firm hold, okay? There's no going back down once we're up there." The boys trekked over to the other side of the gorge. Red noticed just how wet and muddy it was all the way down in the gorge. He feared that the rocks would be slippery.

"Shall ZIM lead?" Purple asked. Red nodded.

"Yeah, Pur and I will take up the rear. Just to keep an eye on you boys in case something goes wrong." ZIM started climbing immediately. The other boys hesitantly followed. Purple and Red stayed down until the boys were up quite aways which took a rather long time for them to climb half way. Red nodded to Purple to go. "I'll be last this time." Purple didn't say anything. He started his way up, Red followed a minute after. ZIM was already at the top, he was helping haul Dib up and over. ZIM gave Dib antibiotic ointment and gauze to dress his wounds, Timmy was waiting for help to get up and over and Chester was just below him. A.J. however seemed to be struggling. He looked stuck. "Get to the kids, Pur, I'll help this one." Red said. He climbed up directly below A.J. "Hey, mate, what's the hold up?"

"I can't move. I'm frickin' terrified." The boy whimpered.

"She'll be right, mate. Keep your gaze up to where the rest of our little posse is." A.J. craned his head upward just in time to see Purple pull himself up to safety.

"O-okay." A.J. was shaking hard. It was obvious to see. He climbed on as slow as a fat, sloth. Red lingered right behind. Prepared for anything that might go wrong. "M-Mr. Macale, it's starting to get slippery. These rocks are wet."

"Firm grip, c'mon bud." Red looked down. They were probably twenty feet up by now. A.J. suddenly gasp as his foot slipped. He accidentally kicked Red in the face. The man was taken by surprise and lost his grip on the rocks he was clinging to, his feet slipped and he found himself starting to plummet to the hard dirt and rock ground twenty feet below. A.J. screamed as Red fell. A face of pure horror dared not look below in fears of what he'd see. Red reached out hoping to grasp something to break his fall. His claws just ended up scraping the rock wall. Red then landed hard on his left side, leg snapping, shoulder smashing, hip crushing, and head knocking to the ground. And then, he saw nothing.

...

"What the fuck just happened?" ZIM hoisted A.J. up, his voice panicked. The boy pointed down.

"R-Red . . . f-fell . . . h-he-" A.J. couldn't finish anything he was trying to say. Purple and ZIM rushed to the side of the cliff. Far below they saw him, laying on his side, unmoving.

"Red!" ZIM's panicked cry echoed. "Red!" ZIM got himself ready to climb down when Purple stopped him.

"You can't climb down! Not without a rope! That's more dangerous than climbing up. You won't be able to see where you're going."

"Red's down there though!" ZIM cried, trying to escape Purple's grasp.

"You can't go down." He pushed ZIM into Dib. "Watch him, Dillon." Purple looked over the ledge again. Red was still motionless. He bit his lip hard. "Oh God, fuck, fuck, what do I do?" A.J. was hysterical. ZIM was the same and violent now by the way he just smacked Dib across the face. The other two buffoons couldn't help him. Purple pushed a fist into his forehead as he tried to think. The only plan coming to his mind was to go down himself. But he couldn't otherwise he'd more than likely end up like Red. He already slipped a few times going up. Going down he'd slip and fall for sure and the kids would be all alone to fend for themselves. Purple gazed down, watching for any signs of life. There was no telling if Red was alive or not. The fall was a little less than the half way point, and he didn't land on his neck, maybe he'll just suffer serious injury and not death. Purple looked back to ZIM. The poor smeet and his brother had an extra sensory perception with each other. If Red was hurt, ZIM sure as heck was hurting too. Not physically but he felt the pain of extreme empathy and pity for Red. Purple sat back, bringing his knees up to his chest.

He couldn't do a thing. Not a single thing.

Meanwhile

"You will not stop until you find my smeet! I will not tolerate laziness on your parts!" Tenn shook her head at her mother-in-law. She's been screaming at the rangers for ten minutes now. "The longer you stay here, the longer they'll have to remain in that wilderness!" Tenn smirked. She loved Kaddie. She really did, but she could just be so . . . high strung, especially when it came to her youngest child.

Grapa came with Kaddie as well as Purple's older sister. Tenn was next to positive Grapa was going to ask Zee out at anytime. He'd be a good catch for her. The fact that he was her husband's best friend was a bonus. Marzi was talking with Zee in the other room. Tenn remained in the sitting room with the infuriated mother and nonchalant ranger. Leslie was present too, however she remained quiet. Deep in thought. Tenn could tell by the way Leslie's non blinking eyes stared off into space and her teeth bit lightly into the flesh of her bottom lip.

"Something wrong, sis?" Tenn asked. Leslie snapped out of it and looked at her.

"Why?"

"You're thinking is pretty intense."

"Well . . ."

"So what's on your mind?" Leslie shifted.

"It's weird. You'd think it's dumb."

"The only dumb thing you've ever said, Les, is telling Red that it was okay for him to purchase a paintball gun. My car never looked the same again." Leslie chuckled a bit.

"Well you see, the night before nana asked him to go to Alice Springs he had a terror."

"That's not out of the ordinary."

"I know it's not. I sleep with him every night and he has them often. More often now than he previously had. But it's what he said in his sleep. He said, 'something bad is gonna happen' as if he were foreshadowing he'd go missing." Tenn raised a brow.

"That is weird." Tenn tried to rationalize it as best as she could. "Night terrors always give people a sense of impending death or unfortunate events. So maybe it wasn't so odd for him to say that then go missing two days later." Leslie shrugged.

"I dunno. It's pretty coincidental if you ask me."

"Yeah . . . Guess it is."

"Ma'am, return my hat!" The two women looked back to Kaddie and the ranger.

"Not until you get your ass out of here and into the copter! My boy is coming home and you're not resting until you find him!" She swatted the ranger with his hat. The man scowled. Tenn scurried over to the tizzy.

"Ma, he's trying to help us. Stop pissing him off." Tenn hissed, yanking the hat out of the shorter woman's grasp. Tenn handed the hat back to the ranger. "I'm sorry. She's a mama bear. What are ya gonna do?" The man huffed and left. Tenn turned back to Kaddie. "Well now you probably just doomed them all. Good on ya."

Later

Dusk

Purple paced back and forth. He's been doing that for an hour now just trying to think of someway to get to Red. Even if he did make it back down safe and sound, there was no way he'd be able to haul Red back up by himself. And Red was probably hurt bad enough to not be able to walk, that is if he's not already gone. Purple walked to the ledge again and looked down for the umpteenth time. Red still hasn't moved an inch. Purple kept a wary gaze on his fallen brother for a few more minutes just to see if he could see Red's chest rising and falling. He was too far away to tell.

They needed to keep moving, but they couldn't go without Red. Some of them should keep going, looking for help, while one of them stays behind with Red. Purple came to a final decision. A scary decision but he had no choice.

"One of you boys will have a very, very important job." Purple started. The five youngsters looked up to him. "One of you is staying here with Red. The rest will be going with me to find some help. We have flare guns, we're gonna use them. If you see or hear a plane or helicopter flying by, shoot a flare. They'll see it and they'll help us."

"I'll stay!" A.J. offered immediately. "My dad is a doctor and he taught me a lot of what he knows."

"A medical doctor, right?" Purple asked for verification.

"Yeah. Surgeon." Purple nodded.

"Very well. I don't think your skills will come in handy however. I'm not allowing you to go down there. You'd slip for sure." Purple strained himself to think harder. He was trembling with fright. He dared not panic and cry out for his friend in fears that'd it'd just make them panic as well. "Just . . . stay up here. Keep a look out for any planes. We'll leave one flare here. Also, keep a close eye on Red. Look for any movements or twitching, anything to indicate that he's still . . ." Purple casted a wary glance to ZIM. "Never mind." He picked up one of the bags and threw it over his left shoulder. "You boys come with me."

"I'm not going!" ZIM stomped his foot. "I ain't leaving him behind!" The boy's face was completely soaked in his own tears. "I'm not leaving Red!" Purple crouched down to be face-to-face with ZIM.

"Zeiden, I need you to keep calm, okay? Red is fine. He'll be alright-"

"He won't be alright, you idiot, he fell twenty feet down onto solid rock!" Purple furrowed his brow. He was trying, he really was. He couldn't be the man with all the answers. He couldn't magically heal people or turn back time to prevent something from happening. Purple stood and grabbed ZIM's hand firmly. "You're not staying. I'm the only one besides Red that knows how to deal with your epilepsy. I can't let you out of my sight." ZIM tried pulling his hand out of his grasp.

"Let me go! Peder, let me be!" ZIM kicked his brother's leg. Purple's grip only got stronger. He ordered the remaining boys to pick up some bags and follow him. Purple turned back to A.J. one last time before heading out again.

"It wasn't your fault, kiddo."

Night

The boy sat in silence. Flashlight in his lap, not currently in use. The moon was bright enough to lighten up the world. A.J. sighed heavily. He wasn't scared that he was alone. Not even when the wild dogs started to howl. Purple left one bag behind for A.J. It had a automatic pistol, loaded and ready to go. All A.J. had to do when he used it was to flip the safety off. The bag also contained jerky that Red and Purple made from the kangaroo ZIM hunted and three canned waters. A.J. ate a stick of jerky and drank half of one can. He felt bad, Red was going hungry tonight. That is if he was still alive- No! He's alive! A.J. pushed the thought of Red being dead from his mind. He couldn't live with the guilt of killing his best friend's older brother. More than that! Red was ZIM's soul protector and guardian. A.J.'s guts twisted with uneasiness inside him. He drew his knees up and put his head down, wrapping his arms around his legs. It was cold. And this night was the first night he didn't have an Irken thermal blanket. A.J. was shivering like mad. He was tempted to climb down into the gorge and snuggle up to Red. As weird as that sounds, it was still a very smart idea to share body heat. Especially with a species that emitted a hot blooded temperature instead of a warm one. A.J. laid on his side. Hoping that sleep would overcome him. Unfortunately, it will not find him.

He'll be without sleep tonight.

...

Oh child.

"Huh?"

You look awful.

"Wh-what?"

You took quite a tumble there, haven't you?

". . . Who's speaking?"

Who's asking?

He couldn't see anything. No matter how much he squinted to see, there wasn't anything or anyone around. Who could be talking? It was pure white. Everything. Everything was white. Everything? Yet there was nothing there. So nothing was white.

As far as he could tell, there wasn't even a ground. Yet he was still standing. He looked straight, behind him, above, left, right, down. It all looked the same. Blindingly white.

"What do you want?"

I want you to look at this.

"Look at what? There's nothing here!"

Shh. Look.

Before him and image appeared. A scene suddenly set and he found himself standing in what looked to be a massive, living room with a tall ceiling, huge windows, and a staircase with catwalk to his right, the floor space was wide and had plenty of extra room. Before him was the furniture. And a family. Not just any family. His family.

A young, little girl, no older than four with long, wavy reddish-brunette hair with sharply kinked antenna poking out, was playing happily on the floor with dolls. She was acting out a little sketch in her head.

"I love your top, Stacy! Where'd you get it?" A man accompanied her on the floor, also holding a doll. His belly was rounded, he looked like he was at least four months pregnant.

"Why thank you! And if you must know, I got it from Hylands." He responded in a mock female voice.

"I think I'm gonna get one just like yours!"

"Auh mah gawd! We'd be twinners!" The man chirped. A woman entered the room smiling, in her arms was a set of two smeets, sleeping peacefully.

"C'mon you two. It's bed time." The man and the little girl whined.

"Aww! We were gonna go dress shopping! The prom is coming up!" The man groaned. The woman shook her head.

"Nope! It's bedtime. Both of you get your jammies on and c'mon. I'll tuck you in." The little girl stood up with the man. She grabbed at her father as if to say, 'pick me up'. The man bent down and scooped up the little girl. He rested her on his hip and kissed her cheek. The girl smiled and embraced him around his neck.

"Night, daddy."

"Goodnight, baby girl." He set her back down and she ran up the stairs. The woman approached the man and kissed him on the lips.

"She's definitely daddy's little girl." She said to him. "I can only imagine how she'd turn out without you."

"Yes well, I am pretty much the biggest impact on her life ever."

"Oh really? Are you the impact on her? Or is she the impact on you?" The man's lips went slightly agape. The woman smiled and kissed him again. "Come on, Red. Lets go to bed."

Whiteness again.

That's my granddaughter. My beautiful, beautiful, granddaughter. And she needs you, her father. She needs you more than anyone else in this universe. You're the only one who'll ever be there to help her with her problems and conditions. You'll understand her better than anyone else. She's a piece of you. And the two other smeets, they cannot exist without you.

Another scene set before his very eyes. They were in a huge cathedral. Bells were tolling. He saw himself standing in the front wearing a tuxedo. Hundreds of people were sitting and observing. Cameras were everywhere filming him. To his right, he saw a young man standing at approximately five and a half foot. He looked to be about twenty or so. He was smiling broadly. The young man was fidgeting nervously but seemed happy all the same. The double doors at the end of the main isle opened wide and sweet music from a celestial organ began to play. A woman in white walked down the isle. The same little girl from the previous scene threw petals in front of the bride. The woman made it to the end and stepped up and faced the young man, standing just half an inch above him.

"We are gathered here today to bear witness to an eternal bond. A bond known as marriage, where man and woman unite together as one flesh. Today we recognize Takayla Griffon and Zeiden Macale and their infinite love for one another. They'll be joined in holy matrimony and together in Christ, will they live their lives as one. They'll raise their young in Christ's favor and they'll be shining lights for those who surround them."

You don't want to miss this. Do you?

"No! I wouldn't dream of it!"

Then you must be strong. Don't give up. You'll be just fine.

His eyes stayed on himself in front of the church. He saw himself starting to cry as the rabbi began getting closer to the vows and the final seal. The kiss. The young man turned to Red and gave him a reassuring smile. He saw the boy mouth these words to him, 'Thank you for everything.'

The two lovers recited their meaningful vows then the rabbi announced it.

"I now pronounce you, Mrs. and Mr. Takayla Griffon-Macale. You may kiss the bride."

Back to white.

I love you, child. I love you so much. Now go. Heal and pray. You're going to have a great life.

The man looked about him. Still no one was there. He bowed his head and closed his eyes.

"Thank you . . . mom."

August 11, 2001

The world was blurry and spinning around him. Light from the sun high above shined in his barely opened eyes. A.J. rubbed his face, stretching and yawning. He didn't sleep at all. He was half conscious the whole night. The boy stood up stiffly and walked to the edge of the gorge to check on Red. He's been doing that every other hour. Peaking over and expecting to see the same unmoving Irken below, A.J. was shocked to see the Irken attempting to move his arm he wasn't laying on. The boy gasped and nearly jumped for joy.

"Red! Red! Are you okay? Can you speak?" A.J. called down to him. Red went still again. The Irken wasn't capable of moving his head yet.

"Wh-who-" Red choked and coughed. A.J. strained to see him better. "Who's wi-" His body dry heaved. If it weren't for an empty stomach he would have vomited. Red cried with agony at the uncontrollable wrenching of his broken body.

"Just stay put, Red! They're getting help!" A.J. shouted. Red on the ground moaned. His eyes scanned his surroundings without moving his head. He couldn't remember much. What he was doing and why he felt like he got hit by a bus. Red's head was a jumbled mess. He could barely form sentences. He couldn't even tell where exactly he was hurting. All he knew is that he was in pain. And a lot of it. "Don't move!" Red opened his mouth and realized just how dry it was. His throat too. In fact, his whole body felt utterly dehydrated. And his stomach was on fire and hurting. But of course everything was hurting for him at the moment.

"I dun hu . . ." Red said in a daze. The boy above did not hear him. Red sighed. It hurt to breath. He closed his eyes so the sun wasn't shining in them and hoping it'd help with his mammoth sized headache. At that moment, Red wanted nothing but to die then and there. Anything would be better than the pain he felt right now. Red's eyes flew open when he heard a rustling sound move through some nearby dead leaves that have fallen into the gorge. Red tried his hardest to look above him where the noise was coming from, but his question of what it was, was answered when a brown snake slithered into view. Red recognized the snake and because he knew just what type it was, it made it several times more scary. A mulga snake. This breed of snake was a more aggressive and agitated breed. It would size up, sway side to side and hiss loudly if it feels threatened. The scariest part was their bite. These snakes were the heaviest venomous snake in Australia and are very savage when they sink their fangs down into flesh. Sometimes it'd chew as it's releasing its venom in its prey. If he were to get bitten he'd die for sure. He'd need the antivenom to treat it, which he didn't have at this moment. Red gasped. He choked on some blood in his throat and he coughed it out. The snake slowly came closer to Red, curious about this creature that it's never seen before laying on the ground. Red shook. "Th-this day . . . can't g-get worssse."

Meanwhile

"ZIM, please catch up." Purple pleaded. "I gotta keep my eyes on you." ZIM's gaze was geared toward the ground. He shook his head.

"We shouldn't have left him." ZIM whispered. "We should've stayed. We could have at least tried to make it down." Purple stopped dead in his tracks. The boys who were following right behind him ran into his back. Purple turned back around.

"So what? You wanna stay there and wait for help instead of seeking it?" ZIM nodded.

"Yes." Purple groaned, rubbing his forehead. He looked up to the clear blue sky beyond the canopy of trees. He pondered hard for a long time.

"Okay, fine. We'll go back and wait for help. We only walked an hour last night. It shouldn't take long to get back." Purple said. ZIM beamed. Purple cracked a smile at him. "We'll make sure your brother comes home safely." ZIM grabbed his OBFAM's hand and started to drag him back to where they came from.

Later

Ever since Red came to, A.J.'s eyes never left his body for a second. Red was laying on his side, away from A.J. He was breathing shallowly. A.J. could tell by the way Red's shoulder rose and fell with shuddery breaths. A.J. jumped a little when he heard footsteps behind him. He stood up and whirled around expecting the worst. He sighed with relief when he saw ZIM.

"Zeiden? What are you doing here?"

"We all came back." Soon the four others stumbled out of the brush and into the opening. A.J. rushed to them.

"He's regained consciousness. But he's incapacitated. We can't rely on him to climb up." Purple and ZIM went to the ledge. Red's antenna merely twitched and that was the only sign of life besides the rapid breathing. ZIM's heart sank. He's only seen his brother in that terrible of a condition once before at the rodeo not too long back. But this time Red wasn't mauled by a bull. It was a twenty foot drop that rendered him temporarily paralyzed.

"Guys, he hasn't had anything to drink or eat for twenty-four hours now. One of us should at least try getting down there." A.J. suggested.

"I will-" ZIM's volunteerism was cut short by Purple.

"No! No, no. I'll go. You're right, Austin. He's fine now but if he doesn't stay hydrated, he won't be alive for much longer." Purple picked up a bag filled with cans of water and some kangaroo jerky. He walked to the ledge and peaked over. He moved to the side so Red wasn't directly below him and threw the bag down. It landed hard on the ground. Purple grabbed the kangaroo skin blanket and also threw it down. He looked to ZIM. "You can go on a hunt and get more skins and meat. But be careful. Take Dib with you. Boys, I need you all to remain calm. This is a scary time, but if we panic now, we're all surely screwed." Purple took a deep breath and got on his belly, dangling his legs off the cliff. He slowly made his way down keeping a vice-like grip on the stones and kicking his feet into the footholds. His right shoulder hurt bad. He wasn't supposed to work it out too hard otherwise the tendonitis would flare up. He grunted trying his best to ignore the pain. He then tried to put himself in Red's shoes and imagined how much pain Red must've been in. That was unless Red still had an adrenaline rush from the fall and couldn't feel anything. The descent didn't take as long as he thought it would for Purple soon found himself five feet from the ground. He jumped down the rest of the way and did a tumble landing to prevent harm to himself. "I made it!" He called up to the boys. He heard someone give an unenthusiastic, 'woo' and it went silent again. "Use the flares if you hear or see any planes!"

"Got ya! Now check on Red!" ZIM's voice replied. Purple didn't have to be told twice. In just a second he was by his friend's side. He knelt by Red's head.

"Red, can you hear me?" The man made a whining noise. His teeth were bared, clenched in pain. His eyes were closed, shut tight. "I'll take that as a yes." Purple pressed his fingers into Red's back and felt up and down his spine to check for injuries there. He suspected a spinal injury considering Red couldn't move. Red didn't flinch however when Purple pressed. This relieved him.

"P-P . . . Nnmm . . ." Red's mouth tried to form words but nothing but consonants came out. Purple put a gentle hand on Red's face.

"Listen, man. You're not gonna like how this sounds but I'm going to flip you over." Red's eyes opened. He looked fearful.

"Uhh. Nuh." Red whimpered, quietly.

"I'm putting you on your back so you're not laying on your injuries, okay?"

"Uuuhhhh. Nnnmmm." Purple slid his hands underneath Red and ever so carefully, pushed him over onto his back. Red yelped loudly. The grown man turned into a blubbering mess in a matter of a second. Purple cringed, never having heard Red cry in such a way before. Red was definitely in quite some pain. Purple took notice of the huge gash above Red's left brow. Blood pooled over his eye, older blood that bled the night before dried and crusted on his skin. Tears poured out of Red's eyes. The man was sobbing and gasping shallow breaths. This made Purple almost sick to his stomach with grief. He held Red's face in his hands.

"Hey, hey," Purple whispered, soothingly to calm him down. His forearm was resting on Red's chest, Purple could feel his rapid heart beat. "Shh, listen. Listen to me." Red choked and his shuddery sobs continued but they were less violent. The jerking of the sobs probably hurt him even more. "We'll be going home soon and you'll be greeted by a beautiful woman and a gorgeous daughter in her arms. She's gonna give you a big kiss and tell you just how much she loves you and she'll hand the smeet to you and you'll be able to see the love and admiration reflecting in her blue eyes. She can't talk yet but if she could she too would be telling you that she loves you. And you love them. And it'll be wonderful to see those lovely ladies again won't it? So that's why you need to man-up and get your ass back there because your family needs you." Red took a breath and grunted a reply which sounded like an agreement. Purple smiled. He got up to retrieve the bag he threw. Luckily the water didn't explode by the impact of it falling from fifty feet. He opened up a can. The water was warm but it'd definitely be better than nothing. He sat by Red's head and contemplated on how he was gonna give Red the water. He couldn't drink laying down, that'd drown him. He couldn't really sit up without screeching in agony. Purple decided to pick Red's head up and rest it in his lap. Red's big crimson eyes looked up somberly to Purple. His mouth was cracked open just a hair. Purple noticed Red's bottom lip was split and more dried blood covered his chin. He assumed Red bit it during the impact of the landing. Purple poured some of the water into his palm and wiped Red's face. He repeated the process but instead of wiping his chin, he brought his palm up to Red's lips and had the water dribble into his mouth. The man closed his lips then opened them again after he swallowed what little water he received.

"I h-haa . . . have a-" Red couldn't finish his sentence. He coughed.

"Red, don't strain yourself. Don't talk, don't think, don't move, just be still and rest. Night will fall soon and it'll get cold and you'll shiver. That in itself will kill your body. So for right now, relax." Purple brought the can of water up to his friend's dry, split lips. He slowly leaked the water into Red's mouth. Purple gave him a moment to swallow the liquids. Red was having trouble downing it however. Finally all the water did find it way down Red's throat. Purple then proceeded to give him some more. "And in case you're wondering, ZIM is fine. He's up there. He's with his friends and they'll all be fine." Once Red stopped taking water, Purple went to inspect the damage. Irkens didn't swell very much so it was hard to pinpoint the problem areas. He was positive Red sustained yet another concussion. Red and ZIM were prone to those, but once he thought of it more, so was he. Red's arm was dislocated, Purple could see that even through Red's clothes. By the way Red's leg was bent, Purple was also pretty sure something happened to his pelvis. Possibly fractured. Purple couldn't fix the broken pelvis but he did know how to pop bones back into place. ". . . Red, I'm gonna fix your arm a sec." Red moaned, weakly shaking his head. "It needs to be done, I'm sorry. I'll fix it now so we don't have to wait till later."

"Nuh, Pu- . . . Leave et." Red was much too drained to put up a proper fight.

"It'll only take a second. And as soon as it's back in place, it won't hurt as bad anymore." Red grit his teeth.

"Nuh." Purple gently took hold of Red's arm and configured where exactly it needed to be fixed. It was his shoulder. If he just pushed the arm up and in, it should be ready to go.

"Take a deep breath." Purple told him. Red whimpered. The other man tried to ignore the cries of his friend. Purple took a breath himself and with one swift move, he pushed the arm up and thrusted it so the bone would fit back into the socket. Red yelled out. The curse he shouted was the first coherent word Purple has heard from him since the accident. Red's unharmed, right arm flew up to smack Purple hard. Purple took the abuse. If he were in place of Red and Red just done that to him, he would've socked him too. Red was hyperventilating at the intense discomfort that flared up from the movement. Purple tried to calm him as best as he could. Red was inconsolable. Purple looked around. He turned his head so he was looking down the length of the gorge. A stream flowed directly down the middle. It seemed to stretch on forever. Purple removed himself from under Red's head and told him to hang tight. The man walked over to the stream and touched the water with his hand. The water was pleasantly cold and crisp. It was also crystal clear. But there was a reason why Red didn't stop to fill up on water from this stream. Bacteria. Coliforms enter the water from rain run offs into the gorge and gathered in the stream. There was no telling how much animal fecal matter was in the water. Red warned the boys not to drink from it because of this. Purple was wise about it too. Both were biologists originally who specialized in microorganisms and ecosystems, after six years of college all about subjects like that, they'd know what they were talking about.

Purple took off his shirt and submerged it into the water. He took it out, walked back to Red and wrung the shirt out then placed it over Red's head for his running fever. "Tomorrow we'll try moving, Red. If we go down the length of this gorge there's bound to be a spot where we'll find something to help us climb out easily." Red didn't make a sound. "But rest for now. I'll go over the plan with the boys tomorrow." Purple sat by Red's head, wiping the blood off his brow with his shirt. "On the bright side, nana won't force you to work when we get back." Red's eyes remained vacant but a small smile appeared on his lips. Purple grinned. His gaze traveled across his friend's broken body. His eyes finally settled on Red's leg and hip. That seemed to be the most badly damaged by far. He shifted to Red's hip lifting his shirt to see a massive bruise covering his body, but the majority of the bruise was hidden under Red's pants. It'll be hell for Red to even stand tomorrow. Purple sighed. Baby steps. It'll take a lot of patience. So they'll take it slow.

Meanwhile

"Um . . . We may have to put off filming this week." Zee said. "Our stars are kind of missing." Mr. Kugar, the director, gave her a shocked look.

"Where are they?" He nodded to the camera men behind him to start filming for the reality T.V. show.

"They went to Alice Springs a couple days ago to retrieve some vaccines for our cattle and they never returned home. They ran out of gas." Zee explained. "They're out in the wilderness somewhere."

"Ooh, this is exciting!" Kugar smiled. "This will be an interesting episode! It'll be dramatic. Go! Elsewhere. Start filming the cousins and workers' reaction to their disappearance. Hold some interviews." Kugar darted off. His crew scattered about, doing as told. Zee shook her head.

"It's like they don't even care."

"I'm sure they do, they're just putting their work first though." Tenn said.

"Tenn!" Gaz came running out of the house to the yard where the sisters were. She was holding the house phone to her chest. "The coast guard tracked them! They have their approximate location!" Tenn and Zee's eyes widened.

"How?"

"Cell phone." Zee stared blankly at Gaz for the longest time. After a few moments she slapped her hand over her face.

"Of course . . . One of the human boys must have a cell phone that the satellites could pick up. Right?" Gaz nodded.

"They're sending a crew out there immediately. They told me that they'll try to find them in the next day or two."

"Oh thank God." Tenn clutched her chest. "I'll go tell nana." She left Zee and Gaz. The older woman turned to the younger.

"Go tell your mum, too, Gaz, she'll want to hear it." The girl smiled and went off to find Leslie. Zee sighed with relief. She started when she felt a hand rest on her shoulder. She turned to come face-to-face with a tall man with light pink eyes. She smiled broadly. "In case you haven't heard, they found them, Grapa." The man shook his head.

"I haven't heard, but that's great to hear. I was a little worried. Ya know Purple and I got lost for two days while we were on our Senior year trip to Alaska?"

"Ya don't say? What's up with the men we're associated with and getting lost all the time?" Grapa shrugged. He wrapped Zee up in a hug.

"Well since we know your brothers will be okay, you wanna just have time to relax and . . . I dunno, hang out on the town. You could show me around. I haven't been downtown yet." Zee nodded.

"Okay. I'm sure nana wouldn't mind if I took some time off."

"Time off for what?" Zee turned to see her sister-in-law walking over to the couple.

"We're going out soon." Zee told her. Leslie cocked a brow.

"Mmkay, you two better watch it though, okay? No funny stuff." Zee rolled her eyes.

"Augh! You're filling in for Red, aren't you?"

"He's not here to do his job. Someone has to do it."

"Just don't be too much like him and hire people to follow me." Leslie scoffed.

"He did that before?"

"Red gave Gaz fifty bucks to follow me and Mark on a date." Leslie snickered.

"Sounds like something he'd do." Leslie said. "And once he returns, he won't be very pleased that you two went out on a date without his consent."

"He's not the boss of me." Zee said.

"That won't stop him from thinking that he is." Zee and Grapa stared at Leslie then shared a glance with one another.

"Suppose you're right." Grapa said. "But he'll learn eventually. Lets go." He took Zee's hand and led her out. She winked at Leslie. The older woman just smiled, shaking her head.

"You two behave!" Leslie turned around to go back inside the home. She walked past the living room and noticed Gaz watching Irken celebrity news broadcasts.

"Yes! We just got the news. We got a call just moments ago from director, Lyle Kugar, that the Macale siblings have gotten lost on their earthen home." Leslie groaned.

"Boy, news sure does spread quick, doesn't it? Now I'm gonna have to deal with all the media."

"Well, they're not here yet so you still have time to run." Gaz told her.

"I choose to stand my ground, though that is a tempting suggestion."

". . . It's true that Zeiden has been acting odd lately but I don't think it ties into this incident." One reporter said to the other.

"Now they're going to over analyze everything and it'll be a mess and soon rumors will spread. Great." Gaz mumbled.

"I hope they find them soon. I'm really looking forward to Red's upcoming music video for his new song, Here I Lay. I heard that it was gonna be one of his more risqué videos." Leslie raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah right. Red's not like that . . . Of course he already did have to get half naked in front of the camera before."

"I heard he was gonna be bound loosely to a bed, naked."

"Oh God, I hope so. I wouldn't mind seeing him like that." The reporters chuckled together then continued to talk about the situation.

"Actually . . . I wouldn't mind seeing him like that either." Leslie muttered. Gaz gave her mother a disgusted look. "What?"

"You just . . . You just don't say something like that in front of your daughter. You're middle aged and have a smeet, you're not allowed to talk like that anymore."

"Oh please, you walked in on us doing all sorts of things."

"And you think I'm not traumatized?"

"Of course you're traumatized, honey. It's apart of life when living with Irkens."

"I especially hate it when I walk in on you guys and you two don't stop going at it."

"We're good at ignoring."

"Well you ignored me when you were all over him, having sex on the staircase that one day!"

"Really? You saw that?"

"Yes!"

"I thought we were home alone."

"I was upstairs the whole time, mom."

"Wow . . . I guess we're really good at ignoring."

"I can never walk those steps without shuddering now, thanks to you."

"Guys!" Tak bound down the stairs. "I heard they found them. Is it true?"

"Yeah. They picked up a cellphone signal coming somewhere from the Kimberley. It's faint and nearly impossible to trace but they have hopes that they'll find them in a couple days." Gaz told her. Tak sighed.

"Thank God! I miss my Zei-Zei. And I keep getting calls from the girls at the studio asking me where he is and I don't know what to tell them. They probably think that I ate him or something."

"Just wait till you guys get home and you two can explain everything." Leslie told her. "Now why don't you girls help nana with things around here. The camera crew is here filming and they'll want to film some action. Even if that action is just milking cows or something." The two girls nodded and went out to do as told. "Tell them that they found them too while you're at it! They'll want to know."

That Night

Purple tried his best. He really did. But the roo skin blanket wasn't cutting it out for Red. The poor man was extremely tense, so tense that his muscles ached from shivering. Purple shook his head. He himself was freezing. He used his thigh to provide Red with a pillow. The other man planned on just sitting there all night, thinking about the next day. Purple snapped out of his thoughts when he heard Red's small voice.

"J-just lay n-next to me." He said. "I-it's not gay, it's sur-survival." Purple chuckled halfheartedly.

"I suppose we don't want to die of hypothermia now, right?" Red responded with a smile. Purple moved himself over to Red's right side and gently draped an arm over his pal. Red leaned his head against his friend's to share as much body heat as possible. He used his right arm to rest on top of Purple's body. A long silence lingered. The only noise was the sound of crickets and their breathing. The two couldn't tell whether it was awkward and unnecessary sleeping together like that or essential. After a minute with complete silence, Red spoke up,

"Well this is nice."

Next Day

"We're gonna take this slow. Okay? Breath." Red inhaled as deeply as he could through his mouth. His rib cage hurt when he did so. "Now, lets sit up." Purple grabbed Red's hand and told Red to brace himself. "Okay . . . Push your body up." Purple pulled Red up into a sitting position as Red himself tried with all his might to raise himself from the dirt ground. Red let out a wail as a searing pain ripped up from his pelvis.

"I-I ca-can't . . . stand. I can't."

"You can and you will. Bite your lip. I'll pick you up." Purple got behind his friend and put his arms underneath Red's under arms and hoisted him up. The injured man shrieked, his claws dug into Purple's flesh in his arms. Red withered and shook, panting as if he just sprinted a 5-K.

"Augh! Fuck, fuck. I can't . . . d-do this." Red sputtered. Bloody drool dripped down his cheek and jaw as he bit his lip to keep his cries to a minimum.

"Come on, Red. You're already up. Lets see how you walk." Purple got on the left side of Red so he wouldn't have to put any wait on his hurting half. Red slung his sore arm over Purple's shoulder and leaned on to him for support. "Look how well you're doing." Purple told him. "Can you put any pressure on your left leg?" Red didn't say anything. He looked at the ground in deep thought. He then lowered his leg and put the slightest of weight on it. He gasped when the pain came back worse than before.

"N-no." Purple groaned.

"Okay. Well at least try limping along with me. I don't want to drag you the whole way." Purple looked up to the top of the gorge wall. "Boys! You follow alongside the gorge. Do not climb down!" Purple called to them.

"Alright! Which way are we going first?" ZIM asked.

"East!"

". . . Which way are we going first?" ZIM repeated, peaking over the edge. Purple rolled his eyes.

"Right! We're going right of where you're standing now." Purple saw the boy nod and disappear to tell his friends what was going on. "You ready to go?" Purple asked Red. The injured man shook his head.

"Don't wanna . . . move." Red started to sway a bit. Soon Red's dead weight was all resting on Purple. It took him a moment to realize that Red had just fainted standing up. He probably couldn't handle the pain. Purple waited for Red to come to. A moment later, Red reopened his eyes. He was in a daze. "I'm gonna be sick." He whispered.

"Oh no, no. Don't get sick. Please-" Red keeled over and retched. Slipping out of Purple's grasp, he dropped on his hand and knees. Purple crouched by him, hand on his back for comfort. Red sobbed as he threw up water he had recently drank. His left leg looked uncomfortably twisted.

"It . . . hurts. It hurts." Red whined, eyes wide from shock of falling down on his injuries. He gasped to fill his lungs as if he just got the wind knocked out of him. "Peder . . . Please . . . I can't . . . d-do thisss. It hurts . . . so fucking bad."

"I know, Red. I know. Just hang in there." Purple lifted him back up cautiously. "You ready boys?"

"Yes sir!" Came ZIM's voice. Purple started walking slowly so Red could limp alongside him. The man gnashed his teeth. Searing agony shooting up from his hip.

"I won't . . . be able . . . to get far." Red panted. Purple continued to walk.

"There's got to be a way out. An easy access to the top." Purple muttered, mostly to himself.

"Don't count . . . on it." Red groaned, pitifully. The two continued to walk. Above they heard the five boys carry on a conversation about sports and female celebrities that they found attractive. Purple heard Timmy mention Tenn's name followed by a hard smacking noise and a cry of pain from the boy. Purple smirked. It was cute how ZIM protected his sisters like that. He's even hit Purple a number of times when he tried kissing his wife. He now knows better than to kiss Tenn when ZIM is sitting on her lap. When ZIM's on her lap, it's his time with Tenn. No one else's. "Pur, we have to . . . stop. It hurts . . . too much." Purple was tempted to just pick up the man bridal style and carry him the rest of the way. It'd take hours to find a route out at the pace they were going.

"We can't stop, Red. Come on. Be strong for me, please? We'll take a break in a hour, how about that?" Red moaned deeply. "I'll take that as a, 'yeah, okay'."

Night

18 Hours Later

"Look ahead, Red! There's a steady slope we can climb!" Purple said excitedly. Red tiredly raised his head. It was dark out. Their only light was the moon. Sure enough, there was a wide opening in the gorge with a long, gradual climbing, slope. It wasn't steep, it was perfect. Red lowered his head again. He was exhausted. Above, Purple saw ZIM run to the slope and made his way down to the bottom of the gorge. ZIM hauled himself over to his brothers. His friends trailed behind. Once ZIM was near, he had to restrain himself from throwing himself onto Red. Instead, ZIM grabbed Red's right hand and held it. He got on the tips of his toes and touched his forehead to his brother's for an Irken kiss, as they were called. Symbolic for brother or sisterhood. Red smiled weakly.

"You hurt bad, don't you?" ZIM looked at the dried blood covering Red's face.

"I've never hurt . . . this bad before." Red whispered. "Not even after getting . . . mauled by a bull." ZIM pouted wanting to cry with empathy for his brother.

"I'm so sorry, Dr. Macale." The hurt Irken gazed up to A.J. "I didn't mean to kick you. I'm so sorry." The young human boy looked remorseful in every way. "I'll help you with everything until the day you heal. It's probably the only way I can apologize." Red shook his head.

"No . . . An apology is enough." The boy wasn't convinced.

"Here you stand, broken and dying and you're telling me that an, 'I'm sorry' is enough to make up for my carelessness?" Red didn't say anything. After awhile he just nodded.

"How's your head? You probably got a concussion, didn't you? Do you have a headache? Migraine?" ZIM asked. Purple smirked loving how the young boy sounded so much like his older brother. And ZIM said he wasn't like Red at all.

"Zeiden, please. Chill out for a second. You can play doctor with him once we're up." Purple said. "Support his right side, ZIM. I think he may go down at any moment." Purple pressed onwards to the desired destination. Purple's own knees felt like they were going to give soon too. He looked forward to a long rest at the top. The human boys walked in front. Purple wrinkled the nose area on his face when a gust of wind blew. He was walking downwind of the boys. "You humans reek."

"Well, our dear Dr. Peder Lee Kinley. Us humans have anatomies in which when it gets hot our bodies perspire. As an everyday term, we call it sweating." Dib sarcastically informed. "Now sweat itself does not stink. However, the bacteria on our bodies consume our sweat and let off the odor you're smelling."

". . . That and I just farted." Chester said. Purple huffed.

"Humans are disgusting creatures."

"Tell me about it. I hang out with these pigs all the time." ZIM mumbled.

"And I married one."

"That's your own fault." Purple said. The group found themselves at the very top of the gorge within two minutes. Purple sighed with relief.

"Well that only took us all day." Purple found a large gum tree where he could sit against. "Do you want to lay or sit?" He asked Red.

"Lay." Purple slowly lowered Red to the ground. Laying him on his back. Red adjusted himself so it was most comfortable for him. Purple knelt by him. He raised his hands in front of Red.

"Let it be known that I'm not trying to molest you." Purple again pulled up Red's shirt all the way to his chest, far enough to show the very bottom of his tattoo. Purple used his right hand to correspond with Red's left hip to feel around his pelvis in numerous places, paying close attention to where Red cringed when he felt in a certain spot. Red winced when Purple touched a very sensitive place right on his hip bone. "I'm taking a shot out in the dark here, but I think the problem areas include your femur, hip socket, pubis and ilium."

"That'll be . . . the most awkward . . . surgery I'll ever have." Red panted. He squeezed his eyes shut tight. "It's getting worse . . . It's getting so much worse . . . I'm loosing feeling." Purple frowned. He leaned back on the gum tree, putting his hands over his face.

"I can't believe this." Silence lingered for awhile. Everyone was tired and in need of rest. ZIM laid himself on his side by Red, keeping a close eye on his big brother. "Just try to get some rest, gents. We'll continue to-" Purple cut himself off and listened intently. "Wait." He strained his antenna to hear. In the distance he could hear the humming of an air craft. A helicopter. Purple sprung to his feet and ripped through one of the supply bags. "This is it. They're here." He finally found what he was looking for. A flare. Purple stood in a large clearing and fired the gun. The red flare flew high into the air, lighting up brightly in the dark sky. Purple felt his heart beat faster with hope. The chopper's hum was getting louder and louder. "They saw it. Boys get ready." The humans cheered with excitement. ZIM smiled but remained in place by Red.

"Hear that, Red? They're coming." Not too much longer, the helicopter was hovering right over the clearing and slowly descending to the forest floor. Coming down for a landing. "You're going to get fixed now." ZIM kissed Red's beating temple, lovingly.

"Zei," Red took a painful deep breath. "I forgot the bovine vaccines in the truck."

Morning

Red woke up in a daze. He didn't recognize his surroundings at all. He was in a bed, tied down with velcro straps. Red also felt as though he were in motion. The sound of rapidly spinning propellers rung in his antennas.

"We're landing, Red. We're landing at Kununurra District hospital." ZIM was by his side. Sitting on a bench with a seatbelt. "Leslie will be there."

"The hospital?" Red slurred.

"Yes! They're going to bring you in for immediate treatment." Red's eyes kept drooping. He was too tired to talk yet. Before he knew it, the chopper landed and men lifted him, still on his stretcher then put the portable bed on its wheels to roll him in. ZIM walked next to Red as they went to enter the hospital.

"Where's Les?" Red asked. ZIM looked up. He knew she'd be here. He finally spotted the woman by the outside of the door of the hospital. At that same time, Leslie noticed ZIM too and made a beeline for him.

"Zeiden! Are you-" Leslie stopped dead in her tracks when she saw her husband in his current condition. "Oh my God." She bolted to his side. She took his hand and kissed his filthy face repeatedly. "What happened to you, baby?"

"It's . . . it's a long story." Leslie's hands cupped his face as she kissed him multiple times again.

"They called me and told me to come here but I had no idea you were hurt."

"I'll be . . . fine now." Leslie walked inside with the medics.

"Mrs. Strud, we're gonna have to have you wait out here in the lobby. We need to give him immediate medical care." One medic said. "We'll give him back to you once we get him into temporary splints. Then you could help clean him up a bit."

"What's wrong with him?" Leslie asked.

"Not entirely sure at this moment." He said. "The doctors will perform X-rays and CAT scans to find the problems. Then they'll address them. He may need surgery."

"Just . . . let me see him before surgery if he needs it." Leslie backed off. "I'll be here, Sweetheart." She told him. Red smiled softly to her. She returned the pleasant smile. ZIM hugged her around the waist. "Hey buddy, I missed you."

"I'm so gross." ZIM said.

"I see that. You have dirt all over you." Leslie then whispered. "And your friends stink." ZIM chuckled. A man in a white coat approached the two.

"Zeiden, I need you to come with me. I just need to check you. I'm offering you a bath too if you want it." The boy nodded.

"Yes please." ZIM said. The doctor looked to Leslie.

"You may come with as well."

"Where's Purple?" ZIM asked him.

"He's gone with Doctor Kennedy." He told him. "I'm Doctor Carrey, by the way. Now if you'll please follow me and I'll give you the check up."

Hours Later

She gently stroked her husband's face to sooth him. ZIM was sitting on the foot of the bed not wanting to leave Red for a second. Red was nearly completely out of it thanks to the strong pain relievers the doctors had given him. Leslie was waiting for the nurse to return with warm water and a cloth.

"Are you thirsty?" Red shook his head. "I'm sure you are. You look parched."

"He is parched. Give him some water." ZIM told his sister-in-law.

"No, I don't want any." Red mumbled.

"Baby, I'm sure you haven't been drinking much at all lately. I mean, you were out in the desert wilderness for how many days with little water?" Leslie asked.

"I wanna rest. That's it." Red's eyes were half open. His head was turned to the side so he could see his wife. "My face feels nasty."

"You have a lot of dried blood and dust on your face. That's probably why." The nurse finally arrived to the room with a big wooden bowl of water and a towel. She set it down on a table by Leslie.

"I'll be back in a few moments. I'm gonna do a quick stitch on his forehead to close that gash."

"Please bring him water too." The nurse nodded at Leslie. Red watched her leave then looked to his wife.

"I don't wanna get stitched up." Leslie sighed.

"You don't wanna do much of anything do you?" Leslie dipped the towel in the bowl and wrung it out. She slid the bed covers down to have more access to Red's body. He was now dressed in a hospital gown with absolutely nothing on underneath. Leslie slid her hand under his back and pulled the stings tying to gown together. She pulled the gown down and started to wipe his chest and torso. He had a few cuts littering his body but none as bad as the one on his head. Red closed his eyes, letting his wife clean him up. It felt good to be clean at long last.

"ZIM, will you help?" Leslie handed him an extra towel. ZIM nodded, dipping his own cloth into the water too. He started to clean his brother's arms.

"Fuck this. I'm so stupid." Red mumbled. "All of this for nothing. Nana is going to kill me three times."

"What? Why?" Leslie asked, quietly.

"First time for getting lost. Second time for getting hurt. And the third time, and this one is the biggest fuck up of them all, I forgot the god damn vaccines. The whole reason why I made that trip in the first place." Red raised his hand, laying it over his face. "The whole trip, the misadventure, this injury. I went through all that hell for nothing."

"Nana won't kill you three times. Maybe once for scaring her, but not thrice." ZIM said.

"How did this happen, Red? You're lying here half dead and I don't even know why."

"I don't really remember. A.J. kept apologizing to me . . . I think he kicked me and I fell." Leslie looked lost.

"We were climbing up from the bottom of a gorge, Red was last to go up to make sure the rest of us went up safely. A.J. got himself stuck, he was too scared to move so Red climbed just below him and convinced him to continue. Either A.J.'s foot slipped and kicked Red off balance or something like it. That's all I know. A.J. would know all the details." Leslie nodded.

"How high did he fall."

"Like six meters."

"Oh my God. It's a miracle he survived." Leslie gasped, awestruck. "But it sure explains a lot. Red, how are you feeling?"

"Amazing."

". . . Are you being sarcastic?"

"No. I feel like I'm floating." Red mumbled. "Could you please anchor me?" Leslie chuckled. She wiped her cloth over his cheek kissing him in the fabrics wake.

"You're not going anywhere for awhile, honey. Trust me." There was a knock at the door. "Come in." Leslie called. The door bursted open and nana stormed to the side of Red's bed.

"Child! I had enough of your constant injuries!" Nana placed her hands on both sides of Red's face. Papa followed her in and stood quietly behind her. "And no more getting lost either! What is wrong with you?" Red cringed at her bellowing voice.

"Nana . . . I had to let go of the horses and camels."

"I don't care about them. As long as you used them."

"You knew I was gonna get lost, didn't you?"

"Every time you make a big trip like that through the wilderness you do." Nana pointed out. "Deru, give nana a hug." ZIM stood on the bed and embraced the elderly woman. As they hugged ZIM whispered in her antenna.

"Don't get mad but he forgot the medicine vials in the truck too." Nana pulled away glaring at ZIM. The boy shrugged sheepishly. Nana just sighed heavily.

"Forget about it. It doesn't matter. As long as you boys are alright." Nana went back to Red. "You just focus on getting better, dju. Don't you dare try anything to hurt yourself further."

"Thanks nana." The elder woman kissed his 'nose', caressing his cheek with her thumb.

"Anytime, my precious smeet."

"My, you've got quite the bump on your head." Papa spoke up. He poked the open wound. Red cringed.

"Honey, why would you poke that?" Nana elbowed him. "Listen here, dju." Red raised his antenna. "That Adele Sheila keeps stalking the ranch and asking our employees for you. Get rid of her or I will." Red beamed.

"Adelaide is her name actually. And please do. Get rid of her."

"You dated her didn't you?" Papa asked. Nana scoffed.

"Honey please, dju dated every girl in this ole town. He's even stole a few gals from some of his cousins, remember?" Red frowned a bit. "She's the stalker, eh? I think I remember her. Mmhmm. Don't you worry about her, Dju. I got you on this one." Red felt his body relax.

"Thank you so much." Red almost in tears of happiness. Nana turned around to the open doorway and shook her head, using her finger and running it along her neck in the 'don't do it' motion. Red cocked a brow following his nana's gaze. His eyes widened when he saw Addy standing in the shadows of the doorway creepily. His jaw dropped. Nana turned back to him.

"She followed us here. She wished to speak with you about something that's been on her chest but-"

"About what?"

"I don't know." Nana said. "But for once she didn't seem very crazy when she told me she wanted to talk to you." Red sighed heavily, pressing his palm into his forehead.

"Alright," He said. "Let her in." Nana nodded. She went to retrieve the woman but stopped and went back to her grandson. She pulled up his hospital gown to cover himself up again.

"Don't want her to get excited from seeing you half naked." Nana chuckled. Red rolled his eyes. Nana left and came back into the room with Addy. The woman made her way to Red's bedside and knelt down. Leslie and ZIM made themselves comfortable while they watched the show.

"Heyya, Reddy-kins." Addy started. Red winced at the name. She took one of his hands into her own. "I'm sorry if I've been freaking you out lately. I understand you have a wife and child and I learned how to respect that after you've been gone for numerous days. But I just have one request,"

"And that is?" Addy smiled, leaning in closer.

"One last kiss? For closure?" Red groaned. By his face anyone could tell that he was having a mental conflict with himself.

"I-I don't know . . . I mean . . . Leslie is right here and . . . my brother . . . and nana and papa . . . and just now a nurse came in sooo . . ." Red trailed off. Leslie cackled quietly.

"Oh it's okay, you two. Don't mind us." Red shot her a glare.

"Are you kidding me?" Red whispered angrily at her. She just shrugged. Red pursed his lips highly annoyed. "Fine! Brief kiss. No tongue-" He was cut off by Addy's lips over his. It wasn't as brief as he wanted but at least she kept her tongue in her mouth- Wait. Never mind. Red's eyes dilated. He pushed her away. "I said no tongue!" Addy just smiled widely, pinching his cheek.

"You're so cute. I'll see you tonight. I might drop by your room for a midnight visit. Of course, you'll be sleeping so you won't see me anyway." The psychotic woman left. The rest of the company laughed as Red nearly cried in defeat.

Later

Purple sat back in his chair by Red's bedside with ZIM on his lap. His best friend was out like a light, wearing a clean, blue hospital gown the nurses gave him after Leslie washed him. Red had his injured leg and hip elevated for his comfort. His pelvis was in a temporary splint. Once Red had his surgery, he could then have a cast. The conscious man sighed. It's been such a long week. His antenna perked when he heard the door of the white room open. He looked up to see who was entering and was elated to find Tenn standing in the doorway. She squealed happily, stretching her arms out, welcoming her husband in for a hug. Purple pushed ZIM off his lap. He ran to his wife and threw his arms around her. The two lip locked for a passionate kiss.

"I was so scared, Peder. I had no idea if you were okay."

"I'm fine, I'm fine. It's Red we have to worry about." Purple told her. The two kissed again, then through the affectionate exchange, an excited shout from Tenn shocked Purple into a frozen state.

"I'm pregnant!"


Go to my profile, there you will see all my Irken headcanons and BYKI fun facts. They'll help answer some questions I'm sure.

Question: What pairing or friendship would you like to see more of?

Also! I have a new DeviantArt! I'll be attempting art I think. So go ahead and go to my profile to check out my DeviantArt page. Nothing is on it as of right now, but soon there will be. I'm gonna post the MaCale family crest soon, so keep a look out for that.