Sorry for the long delay on this. Between school, a bad sickness, and losing inspiration for this fic... It's getting harder to scrape chapters together. I apologize. I'll probably be ending this soon. I'm running out of plot. I'll probably do another version of this fic/a rewrite though, so this won't be the last time you get your needed doses of submissive Zim and Tallest Dib. XD

Enjoy? *is losing confidence in this* ;_;

~•~

Stab, cut, kick, punch, bruising, falling, hurting.

They told him to get up. He got up. They beat him until he fell again. They told him to crawl. He crawled. They kicked him and struck him until he couldn't get up anymore.

Finally he looked up to the screen, from where he lay in shreds on the floor. The red eyes pleaded his case wordlessly with a raspy noise from his throat as his thoughts screamed.

'See? See my worth? I am loyal my tallest! Zim is not defective! Zim is loyal! Zim will do whatever you say!'

They did not even derive enjoyment from seeing him destroyed. If anything they looked bored. They cut the transmission telling him...

Total abandonment.

Hopelessly worthless.

The withered thread that was Zim's will to live snapped.

He had done everything. He wasn't physically capable of anything more. And there was no way he could please his almighty tallest. He felt his pak spark. Something inside it, inside his mind, slipped out of place and shattered. He lay on the floor, staring in shock as a pain unimaginable, a non-physical pain, consumed his every fiber, eating at him like slow acid with no relief. He opened his mouth, barely able to drag in a breathe, and did the one and only thing he was still capable of. He screamed. He was screaming and wailing and sobbing, his whole body throbbing, muscles convulsing. He was going to die. He WANTED to die. But he didn't want to die.

WHY was he worth nothing?

Why? Why? Why?

Then in his agony, something touched him, and Zim's eyes snapped open.

"ZIM!? WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?! ARE YOU OKAY?!"

He could hear shaky breathing near his antenna, and he saw a human face staring down at him, worried, perhaps even afraid.

Dib?

What was he doing here?

Zim just stared, confused.

...

Oh!

OH! Oh yes! Dib was... Yes and... Dib-tallest...

But wait... That... Something... What happened? This didn't make sense...

Zim sat up slowly and Dib leaned away from where he was looming over Zim on the funny bed-sized, cushiony alien sofa they were resting on.

Zim's one good eye provided some red light besides a few flickering glows around the lab, as he looked. Dib's non-glowing amber eyes still stared at him with concern.

"Zim?"

"Where are they? The, the other irkens, and... What... That, that already happened, before, so why..."

"I think you were dreaming or something."

It took a moment for what Dib said to register in the already confused alien's mind. Then Zim looked up in serious surprise at that declaration.

"That's- not possible! Irk-irkens don't dream... I never even went into sleep mode anyway so what..."

Zim looked around, brow furrowed, gaze searching. Patiently, Dib smiled, and boldly pulled his 'hlejkling' in for a comforting hug around the shoulders.

"We were looking for the thing that broke into the base, but after a while and, we didn't find anything, you were getting sore from everything we've been doing, especially walking all over all day, especially considering your one foot got crushed, so, I told you to sit down here for a moment. You said you were going to work on Gir, but when I came back after looking around some more, you'd fallen asleep, and... I... joined you for a nap."

Dib's cheeks turned a little red and he looked away, scratching the back of his neck in mild embarrassment. Even to a non-human, Dib could imagine that waking up to find someone laying next to you could be... irritating at best.

Looking down, Zim saw Gir's pieces laying on the floor next to the couch, including the dented head, those eyes still dead black, and a few tools lay there too. Zim felt a pain in his chest at seeing it, and found himself leaning into Dib without thought. A strange instinct, but it made him feel better.

Awful as it was, he was almost accepting his loss of Gir.

Something he refused to acknowledge slithered on the edge of his thoughts.

Gir was complex, irken machinery.

There was no way they could have found ALL his parts. And now that Zim was abandoned and outlawed by all of irken society, he could never replace those unfixable or forever lost pieces.

And the same went for his base.

He didn't think about any of that though. He wouldn't let himself. It was too frightening.

"Did we... Did you find what broke into the base my tallest?"

The irken asked, still tired, and Dib shook his head, hugging Zim's still small form tighter and closer.

"I think it was an animal, probably a stray dog. It MIGHT still be in here, but I think it stole some of the meat I bought earlier for myself and then left. There's no sign of it other then some misplaced, chewed up groceries and the scent you noticed."

Either way, they both knew that wasn't good. An animal had broken into the base. Who was to say it wasn't dangerous? Not to mention, how did it get in? That meant that more things could crawl their way down here.

Dib had half a mind to search the base and see if Zim had any guns laying around. He wanted one- for emergencies of course. It wasn't that he had any sort of mental complication and was finding himself further and further attracted to power. Of course not! He was just Zim's tallest... And stuff.

But even Zim stuck to the belief that a tallest needed an empire. At the very least, he wanted to make Dib a reputation of respect spawned of fear. That was what he was used to. Being feared. And it frightened him to find that no one saw him as scary anymore.

"I want it out of my base."

Zim broke the silence with a grumbled complaining tone, scowling and pouting and rubbing his eyes, looking like an upset spoiled child.

Dib smirked at Zim's almost annoying but perfectly understandable insistence and selfishly kissed him on the cheek and nuzzled him in a moment of endearment.

"We'll take care of it. Don't worry."

Zim was not in the mood for such things and frowned, glaring across the room, but did not complain against his tallest as he felt the other squeezing him in his arms.

"Well, we need to get to work on fixing this place up now don't we?"

Chuckling, Dib kissed his alien again, on the corner of his mouth this time, not noticing as Zim hunched his shoulders defensively.

Even if it felt nice, this physical affection was still new to Zim, and he'd just woken up after having fallen asleep thanks to exhaustion. Such a controlling action as being squeezed against a larger body and practically nipped at was a little threatening.

He was still incredibly new to these kisses especially, and Dib suddenly wanted to dump a bucket of them on him, and put his mouth all over Zim's body, or it felt that way to the irken. It was... stressful.

Dib wasn't picking up on that though. The fact that Zim wasn't throwing him across the room, he happily owed up to acceptance or even want, of what he was doing, and his advances.

He was still very new to being Zim's tallest. After five years of fighting Zim, Dib still knew almost nothing about loving him.

"Let's get to work then hm?"

Zim nodded, and was relieved as Dib reluctantly stopped hugging him and got up to stretch.

"Alright... I'll check around one last time for any animals, then, I'll see what I can clean up at least. Your technology tends to get a bit beyond what I know, but right now I think the priorities should be more along the lines of, say, moving things out of the walkways and into more manageable piles, and sweeping up broken metal and glass.

At the idea of Dib, no, HIS TALLEST, actually stooping so low as to do CLEANING work, Zim's head snapped up and he gaped for a moment in near shock as his pak tried to re-translate what Dib said with a bit of denial mixed in. When that failed to work, Zim stuttered.

"N-n-no my tallest! Please, don't, don't worry yourself wi-with that! Zim can take care of it! You don't have to do that!"

Dib looked back from several paces away to see Zim scrambling over to follow and then pass him to take care of what he'd mentioned. The human raised an eyebrow, confused.

"I thought you wanted to fix Gir."

Zim felt a stab in his chest and stopped.

Gir.

But he COULDN'T FAIL AGAIN. He NEEDED this second chance. He NEEDED his Dib-tallest. He NEEDED acceptance and worth. He NEEDED to prove himself.

"I-I'll take care of this first, if you want, my tallest..."

Zim wouldn't make eye contact, hurrying decidedly away, but Dib sensed something amiss. Following and reaching out, he grabbed Zim's arm and pulled him back.

"Zim..."

He didn't feel the need to say anything more. As Zim's face grew pained with conflicting desires, Dib began to theorize about what was wrong.

"What if I told you I *wanted* you to go fix Gir?"

Zim didn't answer for a moment, thinking about that.

"But... Then you'd have to move things and clean broken bits of stuff- off the floor."

"Yes, but I want to, and I want you to fix Gir, sound good?"

"No... I can't let you... Do that. That's work for... Not... Tallests...

It was slave work in irken society. But while it would hurt Zim's ego, better he stoop to that level then his master.

Dib frowned. Well, it made sense. Irkens needed a powerful, respectable leader. That leader needed to prove themselves honorable, and their irken underlings needed to help them stay in their high-and-mighty states. Of course Zim couldn't let him do this. The irken would probably have some sort of pak-brain implosion if his master were to kneel to the floor and risk cutting himself, wasting hours on a cleaning job that Zim or some other underling was supposed to do for him.

And Dib lacked the know-how to fix Gir.

So what COULD he do?

He stood there for a minute, holding Zim's arm to keep him in place, then gave a long sigh.

"Tell you what... Can you, get me a broom, or something?"

"Ye-yes, but my tallest you can not-"

"That's alright, we'll work it out later. Go find me a broom... Please."

"... Alright."

Obediently Zim trotted off to climb over more broken things and debris, to turn into a nearly hidden hallway, that apparently lead to cleaning supplies, if it hadn't caved in or anything.

Dib leaned around some large blocky machine to watch Zim go, biting his lip, until he was fairly certain Zim was well out of sight and normal ear-shot.

Then he got to work trying to push the larger things and chunks of things into a pile. What Zim didn't know wouldn't give him a heart attack. Besides, Dib didn't care to sit around in a hammock sipping lemonade right now watching someone else do all the work. It was too cold for hammocks and lemonade anyway...

Though maybe he wouldn't mind snuggling with his little alien next to a fire... And some hot cocoa... Mmmm...

~•~

Zim was sore. Fast healing irken or not, he'd taken some serious torture just a couple days ago. It wasn't going to be all better easily.

Every minute he caught himself rubbing at his blackened eye. He swore it's already blurred vision was getting worse. His pak wasn't fixing it, but it itched like it was trying to heal. It felt awful. He wanted to pull it out and clean it and the eye-socket thoroughly, but until he got the right chemicals from his grooming room he didn't dare try, even if he was physically capable of it.

Right now he needed to just concentrate on pulling fallen rocks and sheets of irken metal out of the way so he could proceed down the hall.

The base was huge. The nearest cleaning supply closet was... Not as close as Zim would have liked.

He growled unhappily to himself and several cuts he got from trying to move things.

What was he doing again?

Ah, yes, a broom. Dib wanted him to fetch a broom.

Did he even have a broom? Maybe a mop would work. He was pretty sure he'd gotten one of those on one of his germ-paranoia-caused-shopping-sprees.

He managed to maneuver into another large, dome-shaped junction room, and then started down another hall. The cleaning supplies were somewhere here, he could swear...

What was that?

Zim whipped around in sudden fear. He drew his hands up to his chest, antennas standing strait up.

He heard something, movement, scuffling. And he could smell it. He was sure it was what he'd smelled earlier, but now it was much clearer, and it wasn't an earthenoid. As a matter of fact, he thought he had a good idea of what it was now, what he'd sensed earlier, and it made him feel a little ill.

The scent was strong.

There it was again. It was back in that main room he'd gone through. The color tint from his night-vision wasn't helping lighten his mood at all. While it only worked in one eye, he tried to switch to heat vision.

He tried to control his breathing as he dropped to a more defensive stance.

What on irk.

Oh no.

With the computer off, none of the security systems were on. That meant in many cases, that without lasers or electricity, that there was nothing to keep many of his mutant experiments in their cages.

He could see nothing at the moment with his faulting heat vision, but he was sure there was something nearby.

'Quiet! Quiet your breathing! Think!'

His experiments weren't curious, harmless wild animals. They were beasts he'd bred to kill for his plots.

To kill humans.

And he'd just cleared away rubble piles on his way here and left a strait path back to Dib.

In a moment of panic, Zim bolted, shooting back out of his hallway and across the room like a rabbit.

His feet hit the floor in fast repetition, as he leapt back past what was left of one rubble pile, and as he did so, he swiped a hand out, knocking the pile of debris so it fell back to partially block the entrance. Or at least, that was his intension, and he heard the clatter.

He gasped and panted, running hard, purposefully smashing his side against anything that might fall to block the path and slow his hoard of enemies.

"DIIIB TAALLLLEEESST!"

~•~

Dib felt he'd gotten a goodly amount of work done.

Most of the furniture had been put right-way-up, he'd nudged various broken bits into piles with his feet as he went, and some walkways had been formed in this major room they were in, and a hall or two, like the ones to the medical bay and snack stash.

Then his ears picked up on a crash, and he jerked his head towards the noise to see Zim stumbling out of the hallway he'd gone down, gasping a little, and looking far from calm.

His eyes widened behind his glasses, and he quickly stepped forward.

"Zim?"

The irken almost fell to lean back against a wall and catch his breath. He felt tired all over again.

His functioning eye looked up at Dib, and he realized all at once, that he had a choice to make, and it wouldn't be a fun one.

If he told Dib about the creatures, they would have to leave the base. A pest-infected home was avoided even by normal humans. It was unacceptable to a Tallest.

But these were more then 'pests.' His tallest was in danger from them. It was his duty to not allow that. He HAD to tell Dib, to prove his loyalty.

"S-Some of my experiments... Escaped into the base."

Zim looked away, clearly upset.

Dib's eyes widened.

"Did, did they hurt you?"

"No. But I heard one. It's in the base back there... And there are probably more."

Dib looked around and let out a long breath before responding in a way Zim had definitely not foreseen.

"Help me find a gun, or set up some traps. Knowing you there's probably a couple weapons around here somewhere."

"You mean... Fight, and?"

"Yeah, of course."

The boy began heaving one of the heavier, cube shaped pieces of machinery, too scorched and dented to be recognized as anything, and pushed it in front of the hall Zim had run out of, blocking it off.

"This is your home, and OUR base now. I'm not losing it over a few creatures."

Zim smiled, widely, a feeling of relief washing over him, and excitement. A fight! They would fight to keep his base!

Despite how happily relieved he felt... He knew this might be wrecked if he told Dib exactly what they were dealing with. He was still conflicted, but for now he tuned that out in favor of pushing things to make blockades, and searching for weaponry.