Author's Note: Sorry about the confusing flashbacks last chapter... I'd forgotten that italics don't show up like that... Apologies!

Warnings: Same as before. Still slash, still slavery, even more insane slash pairings, still lots of unrequited love, and still more appearances by cool Invader Zim characters who are finally given the appreciation they deserve! ... Probably more than they deserve, come to think of it. New warnings include death, betrayals, and ending-ness. Yup, this is the last chapter.

Of A Rhinestone Slavery In A Glass Palace

Zim gave Dib a long, cold, calculating look. When he finally spoke, it was softly, as if he couldn't trust his voice. "Are you staying?"

Dib replied with a similar stare, even colder than Zim's. "That depends."

"On what?"

"Are you going to collar me again?"

"Not right now." Then, as an afterthought, "But yes, I will."

"Oh." Dib was thankful that Zim was being brutally honest with him. "Would I see Torque again?" He knew the answer would be no, but maybe if Zim saw it as a chance to get him to stay voluntarily...

"No." Zim's answer was blunt, but oddly strained. "He's not... I mean... He does manual labor. I thought he'd amuse briefly, that's all."

"Amuse me." Dib replied, uncomprehending. "I don't get it. Amuse me. Why would you think that? He says he loves me and then you get mad. What did you expect to happen? How could that amuse me without making you jealous."

"I'm not jealous." Zim said defensively, not bothering to answer the rest until Dib pressed him. "I thought... Well, he tormented you. I thought seeing your enemy reduced to a groveling loveworm would amuse you."

"But you never counted on me actually respecting him..." Dib finished.

Zim glared. "This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. You can't respect him. You're supposed to hate him."

Dib shook his head. "I can't. I never really did. Sure, I definitely didn't like him when he beat me up, but I never hated him. And now I can't help but respect him. Just... The way he acts. It's strong. Everything he does, it's defiance, resistance. The things I've always said I stood for, but that I gave up on." Dib smiled with a self-mocking upturning of his lips. "I gave up, he didn't. He pushed on. I always thought it'd be the other way around. Everyone else defeated, me being the Earth's very last hope. He proved me wrong. He's different."

Zim frowned. "You weren't supposed to like him. You're supposed to like me!"

"Zim, I can't help the way I feel! I like you, but I like him in a different way. With you... It's not respect so much as... as... I obsessed over you, hated you, spent so much of my life trying to stop you... I poured so much of me into you, and the strongest emotion is love, after all. It just happened."

"So you don't respect me?" Zim demanded.

"No! You didn't get it. I meant the way I feel about Torque is totally out of respect, but with you it's --"

"You can't respect him!" Zim sounded like a petulant toddler. "You can't! All your respect belongs to me. I am your Master!"

Dib was stunned. In the old days, before the invasion, this sort of outburst wouldn't have been weird. It would have been standard, even. But Zim didn't act like this anymore, not usually... "You can't just command me to respect you." Dib said calmly, as if talking to a small child. "Respect isn't something I can just give out. You have to earn it."

Wrong thing to say. Zim backhanded him across the face. His petulant toddler stance had become that of one throwing a temper tantrum. "I am the ruler of your stupid, pitiful planet! I own all the factories, all the mindless animals including your own stinkbeast race. I own you, Dib. You're mine, not some other stupid stinkbeast's. You dare tell me I can't order your respect? That I must earn it? Stupid!"

Zim snatched one of Dib's wrists and yanked him out of the room, pulling him through several twisting halls and down several flights of stairs. The air acquired a mildew flavoring, and it became colder. A dampness hung in the air, increasing the chill and making Dib shiver, clutching his free hand to his chest in an instinctive motion. "Where are we going?" Dib asked finally, his voice echoing oddly against the walls.

"Down." came Zim's curt reply. Dib waited patiently for further explanation, and eventually Zim growled. "I'm showing you exactly how nice I've been to you, compared to how I've treated my other slaves. You're staying the night with them."

Dib wondered how this was supposed to help him respect Zim. After all, wouldn't his respect diminish once he saw the horrible state of his fellow-slaves? Other questions rose to the surface of Dib's mind. He wouldn't be expected to actually work, would he? The thought petrified him for some reason, though he wasn't sure why. Doing manual labor, heavy manual labor, the kind that could get him killed... He wondered also if the slave's cells were like prison cells: gender-separated so that you had a bunch of horny men with beds, preying on the weaker boys to rape. A knot grew in his stomach, but Dib forced it down.

Zim came to a stop at a heavy metal door. He paused for a moment, seeming to hesitate or rethink what he was doing. Then he slammed it open and nearly threw Dib into the dark room. Dib fell, scraping one knee. He looked up just in time to see the door close tightly behind him, leaving him in the darkness.

He was alone. There was no movement or noise in the room. His eyes began to slowly adjust and he saw the state of the room. There were bunk beds, maybe eight of them. Some of them looked unmade, and only a very few looked decent. Dib suspected that those were the unused ones -- one of which he would be sleeping on, no doubt. The blankets were thin, and the pillows were flat. Not all the beds had either one, and none of them had both. There was a light bulb hanging from the ceiling, but it seemed to be smashed.

Reluctant to take a seat on a bed, scared of the consequences of breaking some unknown rule about territory, Dib lingered by the door. It didn't take long, less than an hour, maybe, before the inhabitants of the room came back. There were perhaps twelve of them, roughly. Their faces ranged from various states of exhaustion and pain. Their hair was plastered to their heads and beads of water trickled down them, making their clothes stick tightly to their gaunt bodies. Dib wasn't sure if they'd taken showers or if it was sweat.

"Hiya!" one boy exclaimed cheerfully, rushing to greet him. He had curly red hair and seemed to be about Dib's age.

"Hi." Dib replied warily.

"Oh, wow! You don't have a collar. Gosh, I haven't met anyone without a collar since we first got them. You must be really, really special! Will you be my special friend?"

Dib gulped, afraid of this psychotic boy. He took a step backwards, running into the frame of a bed. "Knock it off, Keef, you're scaring the new kid." one of the other inmates growled from the top bunk.

"Keef." Dib repeated. "I think... I almost remember you."

Keef gasped audibly. "Dib! I know you! You were in my Skool! See? This is fate! We have to be special friends now. Please, please, please?"

"Uh, sure." Dib replied. Anything to get away from this crazy kid.

"Ooh, thank you, Dibby-poo!" Keef jumped to give Dib a big hug, ending in a sloppy kiss. Apparantly Keef had a different definition of "special friend" than Dib had expected...

"Here, kid. Climb up. There's an empty bed. And Keef, what'd I tell you about the new kid?" came the same voice from before, a hand stretching to point to the bed next to him. Dib scrambled up into the bunk gratefully, mildly shocked at Keef's behavior. Dib peered through the dim light to get a better view of his savior.

"Thanks." He looked closer. "...Bill?"

"Do I know you?" the former paranormal investigator asked.

"Yeah! I'm Dib, the kid you were paired up with on career day a few years before the invasion."

"The kid with the alien." Bill remembered. "Yeah, I remember you. The only kid to pass all my tests."

"Tests?" Dib repeated, confused. He didn't remember tests. He remembered a stupid cow, a wild chase after a stupid cereal cartoon, and trying to get proof about Zim's molt. He didn't remember any tests.

"The tests to see if you had the stuff to be a paranormal investigator. You know. The false reports. The fake crop circle." Bill supplied.

"Count Coacoafang?" Dib added helpfully.

"Ah, now there was your entire problem. The reason I decided not to train you. You, despite believing one of your classmates to be an alien and suffering from your peers' disbelief and cruelty, turned right around and gave the same doubt to The Fang!"

"He was off a cereal box!" Dib protested.

"He was the leader of a blood-sucking cult, posing as a cereal character to lure small children into joining him as easy sacrifices." Bill corrected.

Dib suddenly felt very, very silly. "And I didn't believe you. Didn't even stop and ask you for clarification or anything!"

"I would have taken you on as an apprentice if you had." Bill replied wistfully.

Ah, just another way he had failed the human race, Dib realized. If he'd just opened his mind a little, he could have joined Bill against The Fang, then they could have joined forces to stop Zim. Another "if" that would have saved the human race. Another "if" that condemned him to failure. Dib bit his lip until he tasted coppery blood lace itself across his mouth.

"You'd better hit the sack if you want to be able to get through work tomorrow." Bill advised.

"Work?" Dib repeated the word nervously. Surely Zim was going to take him back before he had to work, right? He couldn't do work! Not slave work. He couldn't. He just couldn't! They couldn't make him! He didn't have a collar, and even if he was recollared, he'd never obey anyone -- anyone except Zim, and maybe not even that anymore. Defiant thoughts echoed through Dib's mind as he fell asleep.

"Cute kid." Bill murmured with a paternal smile.

"He's more than cute, he's dreamy!" Keef argued from the bunk below Dib's.

"He's also dreaming and if you wake him, I'll hurt you. Badly." Bill growled threateningly.

Silence reigned through the cell after that.

* * *

The next morning Dib was gently shaken awake. "Time to get up." Bill told him. "The guards want to see you. I have a feeling it has something to do with you not having a collar."

Dib's eyes flashed open, going wide and he sat up quickly. "They can't! Please don't let them!"

Bill gave an apologetic shrug. "I can't. Orders. Maybe you have some sort of super pain tolerance, but I try to avoid pain. Okay?"

"I don't blame you." Dib agreed, calming himself down visibly. "Okay. I'll come. You won't have to force me or anything like that." Bill was thankful for that. He may have gotten stronger from the manual labor, but he'd been on half-rations for years. Dib, on the other hand, looked a lot tougher than him, not necessarily heavily muscled, but lithe and fast. Bill doubted he could have made Dib follow if Dib didn't want to.

Dib pulled himself down from his top bunk, rubbing his neck, gently working a cramp from his. He paused to give the hard mattress a frown before following Bill out of the cell. Bill presented him to the Irken guards with a sarcastic flourish, an act of defiance put up for Dib. It was strange that this small, ignored taunt to the guards would have such an effect in Bill's heart, but... Something stirred. Hope? Bill had thought he'd lost all hope years ago. It was a welcome relief from despair. He left smiling inwardly.

Dib, unknowing of the huge change in Bill, scowled at the guards who roughly shoved him down the hall into a brightly lit room, filled with artificial yellow light. He was shoved on a cold metal table and strapped down. An autopsy table... Dib completely panicked, writhing hysterically, trying to break free. He remembered before the invasion, all his half- hearted attempts to get Zim on the autopsy table. Oh gods, what was Zim going to do? Because of course it was Zim, the only one in the world who knew how afraid he really was of autopsy tables. Of being strapped on them, left in a bright room, just waiting to be cut up by coldly glinting knives. Having pins hold back his skin as strangers stared at his still beating arms, probed his gasping lungs... "Get me off, please." he whimpered over and over.

Zim swaggered in, but he stopped, horrorstruck. "No... I told them not to do this!" he sounded completely sincere, and Dib realized that this was probably some sort of standard procedure. Zim ran over to Dib and hurriedly unstrapped him. "I'm sorry." he said seriously. "I didn't know they were going to strap you up there. I told them just to leave you in here, not to..." he trailed off, trying to regain his own composure and giving Dib a few moments to regain his.

"Should we just forget that happened?" Dib suggested, feeling embarrassed.

Zim nodded. They were both good at pretending. "You stand there, I'm going to go out and come back in. This never happened."

Dib smiled slightly. It was good to have an enemy who understood him so well, and who could relate with him on levels like this. "Right."

Zim walked out. It was nearly five minutes before he came back in. Dib was sitting upright on the table, gazing around, studying everything in sight. "Did I earn your respect, human?" Zim demanded, looking as if he really had forgotten what had just happened. Maybe he had.

"Only my disgust." Dib answered truthfully. "You shouldn't make your slaves live in conditions like that! At least give them all proper blankets! It's cold."

Zim stared at Dib for a long time. "I can't earn your respect, can I?" he asked finally. "Why?"

"You've always tried to demand it, but it just doesn't work that way. I wouldn't give my heart to someone without compassion, without kindness, without..." Dib trailed off, seeing Zim staring at him.

"I never said anything about your heart, human. The heart is for love. I was asking for your respect." Zim said quietly, and Dib knew he'd made a fatal flaw. That was the game they played, loving each other by pretending to hate each other. Kissing every time they insulted one another, while a real kiss was like a punch in the gut... But he'd slipped up. That changed everything. "I suppose you'd give your heart to Torque, though?" Zim's voice was devoid of insults, no superiority, no alienity to it. It was a normal voice, which surprised Dib.

"I think... I think I would." Dib's voice was hesitant, unsure. He knew he liked Torque, knew he respected Torque. Love, though? And that was what Zim was asking him, wasn't it?

"I see." Zim looked thoughtful, as if he were considering something outrageous. "If I gave you a chance for freedom.... And a chance to save your Torque lovebeast," A teasing note, not insulting, bringing a smile to both boy's lips, "as well as all the other slaves here, would you take it?"

"What's the price?"

Zim stared Dib straight in the eyes, letting him know how sincere he really was. "I gave you half of that offer two years ago, and the price was that you challenge me. I suppose it's only fair I double the price. Instead of challenging me, halfway defeating me everytime... I want you to defeat me."

"That's impossible! Zim, it's hopeless. I can't win."

"I'm not asking you to try. I'm not asking you to come up with some clever plan... I'm asking you to follow my plan because my plan will work, without even a possibility of failure." It dawned on Dib what Zim was really asking. "You want me to win? You want the Irkens' hold on Earth to die?" he paused. "What do I do?"

Zim sucked in a deep breath. "You're going to hold me hostage with my own laser gun. You'll force me to free the slaves. Once they're all free, you'll lead them out, still holding me hostage. On your way out, you'll bomb this entire base. Then you'll kill me. Do all that and you'll win."

"I wouldn't have to kill you..."

"Yes you would." Zim gave Dib a cold look. "You will kill me. I'll kill you if you don't."

The plan seemed to have a lot of flaws to Dib. "It's not going to work." Dib said bluntly. "The other soldiers in the base aren't just going to stand around. Even having you as my hostage, they're not going to just let me get away with this."

Zim smiled slightly. "Once you agree, I'll lock them in rooms away from the halls, keep them out of the way. You're only going to keep me hostage for the cameras. Once everyone's locked up, I'll flip the emergency switch, broadcasting everything that happens to my leaders, the Tallest. I'll die a hero."

Dib smiled in return. "You've got a plan, then." He leaned in and kissed Zim lightly on the lips. "I can respect you now."

"I know." Zim didn't have to tell Dib that was the entire reason he was doing this. Funny, really. He ruled the world and he was giving it all away, betraying his people, just for one puny boy's respect and a hero's death. He didn't mind. It was worth it completely. "Dib, I love you."

Dib hugged Zim tightly. "I love you, too. Not in the way you want me to, but I do love you. You're my best friend, weird as it sounds. You've always been my best friend. My obsession. My enemy. My everything. Zim, you don't have to die..."

Zim pried himself from Dib's arms. "Yes I do, Dib. I can't live here, watching you and Torque really fall in love, I can't live among the humans I've treated like slaves for all these years, I can't betray my people worse than I already am. I have to die and you have to kill me." "I don't understand why you're doing this in the first place." Dib admitted.

Zim smiled halfway. "Remember all those years ago, when you said that only one of us could have our dreamworld become a reality? What was it you said? That you couldn't be a hero while I took over your world? Well I've had my turn at living out my fantasies, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of everyone pretending to respect me. I'm sick of the Tallest pretending they like me. I'm sick of all the pretending! Dib, I just want it to end. I want you to have your turn. You'll have a better time being the hero than I have.

Zim handed Dib his silver laser gun before he turned to a computer in the far corner of the room. After nearly ten minutes, he nodded. "It's done. Everyone is locked away. I'm going to flip the switch now, so start acting." Zim pressed a red button and felt Dib press the cool metal of the gun to his neck.

"Free all the slaves in the building." Dib ordered the alien curtly, understanding exactly how Zim wanted him to act.

Zim quietly clicked a few buttons. "Done."

Dib yanked him out of the room, sensing the hidden camera following him. He pulled Zim towards the cells, where slaves were emerging, looking confused. "Everyone, get out of here, and yes, that is an order! Leave the building and meet..." Dib thought for a moment. "Meet all together a mile east from this base. I'll get rid of all your collars then, so stay put, okay?" He scanned the crowd for a while, searching frantically for one person. "Torque!" he finally yelled, finding him. "Lead them there, okay? And wait for me."

Torque nodded. "Okay, everyone! Follow me!" he led everyone towards the stairwell that would lead them to freedom . Dib pulled Zim up the stairs after them, but turned in another direction, towards the explosives storage Gaz had told him about. When he got there, he timed one of the bombs to go off in ten minutes. Then he looked into Zim's eyes, a sadness coming over him. "I don't need you anymore." he said, realizing that it was true, in a way that was more than just for the cameras. He didn't need Zim. He was entering an entirely new stage of his life. His childhood had been dominated by the fantasies of something like Zim. His teens had been dominated by Zim. But now... Zim was going to die, and he would be an adult.

"Then kill me." Zim's voice pierced through Dib's thoughts. On impulse, Dib grabbed Zim and pulled him close, kissing him fiercely. Kissing his childhood goodbye. Kissing his teenage years goodbye. Kissing adulthood hello... He shot the laser through the side of Zim's head, not breaking the kiss until Zim slumped, limp in grasp. Dead.

Dib walked out without looking back.

I'd love to lavish you with details about how everything worked out just fine for the newly freed slaves, but it was all so sugary sweet and slow that I'm sure you'd be bored to death, so you'll have to make do with a light outline of the events that followed. Dib and Torque eventually really did fall in love. They weren't the first ones to be married under the new human freedom, but they definitely held one of the most celebrated weddings. Dib and Torque worked together to build a new society, one that was fair and open-minded, and, in their opinion as well as most everyone elses', a lot better than the old human society. They basically got everything they wished for, even an alliance with the Irkens, who instantly became their best friends once they discovered that the humans provided both free nachos and free curly fries for any royal ambassadors, as well as killer laser light shows accentuated by awesome smoke machines. Needless to say, Earth was never invaded again, what with The Massive almost constantly stationed within the solar system and the Tallest spending most of their time "ambassadorizing" on Earth. And everyone lived happily ever after.



Author's Note: *stares* Wow. Where'd that ending come from? This thing has gone through three endings so far. In the original outline for the story, it ended with Dib becoming a slave and, eventually accepting it. I added in the margins the possibility of him accepting it because he saw Torque had accepted it and Torque was always so strong... I didn't actually expect to write that part in, though! But I did in my rough draft, and Torque didn't write himself as the compliant slave he was supposed to be. So it expanded and in my notebook-version, Zim lets Dib and Torque go for the "challenge". Again. I read that and decided it was entirely stupid and re-wrote it for the typed-version. It was supposed to cut off when Dib killed Zim with some obscure, made-no-sense comment about birthdays, but I couldn't resist. Arina, my beta told me to make a mini-epilouge, and ta da! You have here in your... uh, computer... the final copy! Like it? Leave a review! I'd appretiate it!

Replies to Reviews: Evil-Chicken-Wrath: LoL, thanks! Jealous Zim is just too much fun too write.

ArmAndLeg: Cool! And here I thought I was one of the only TADR fans out there. Your presence has given me the inspiration to write another TADR! Well, actually I already started it, but we'll just say that you gave me the inspiration to actually transfer it from my notebook to the computer, right?

Celelorien: Cool! Another TADR fan! TADR fans unite! LoL And I guess the this chapter answered your question about why Zim would think bringing in Torque would be a reward. I cut the chapter off at a different point than I'd originally intended. Sorry about that!

Silver Neko: Thanks tons!

The Gigantic Evil Bunny of DOOOOOM!!!: Sorry... LoL, no more ZADR, but I hope you liked the TADR? Please don't kill me!