A/n: Sorry this took so long. But having an upper level English class in college means essays, and essays mean crying and blubbering in the dark late at night while sobbing into a doughnut to assuage my sadness...Ok, maybe not that- but it does mean I don't have much time for leisure writing :/ But don't worry- while updates may be a bit slow, the story will be seen through to the end. All my stories are. Enjoy~

Dib awoke some amount of hours later to his room in an even darker state than he had left it. No longer did sunlight shine through the draperies- instead the moon glowed solemnly in the night sky as Dib pulled his curtains aside and rubbed his eyes sleepily while brushing a hand through his hair.

Yep. Still part Irken.

Sitting back on his haunches and watching the night sky with better vision than he'd ever had the luxury of enjoying before, Dib contemplated his lot in life. Was he simply destined to fail to stop Zim? And, was Zim in turn destined never to succeed at taking over the Earth regardless of whether Dib did anything about it or not? They were both natural failures and outcasts, not quite so different as one might assume.

Watching the stars Dib considered that, even though he had seen for himself what was beyond the hazy atmosphere of Earth during his crazy space battle with Zim, it was still an amazing sight. Out there somewhere in the inky blackness was Irk, and Vort, and the Meekrob home planet, and whatever other alien species Zim hadn't mentioned. The cosmos was incredible, and never ceased to fill him with a sense of being small. The stars were scattered across the velvet of the night sky and glowed invitingly, and Dib stretched as he debated with himself.

It was around two in the morning, but he wasn't as bone-tired as he had been when he'd flopped into bed hours ago. His back felt loads better, and he chalked it up to the creepy healing abilities of whatever the hell was inside his Pak. Rolling off the bed and changing into regular clothes, Dib lazily dropped his pajamas in the same heap as his sheet; he'd deal with the mess later.

Slipping quietly out of his room and softly shutting the door behind him, Dib padded downstairs. Taking care not to let his claws get hooked in the carpet as he walked, the glow from the main room surprised him. Gaz…? But it was two in the morning!

"You… you're still awake?"

Gaz shifted a shoulder without sparing Dib a glance as he passed behind the couch. "There's a cow eating marathon going on. Of course I'm awake."

Dib rolled his eyes as he continued on past her, ignoring his boots and only pausing with the door open a crack as he left. "I'm going out."

Gaz did glance over at this, an eyebrow delicately rising. "Don't get mugged or shot or whatever."

This time Dib only grunted in response, shutting the front door with a thunk. Stepping out into the crisp night air, he strolled along the streets in the general direction of the park with only the rhythmic tapping of his clawed feet to accompany him. The top of the playground there was nearer to the stars, and the woods surrounding it would prevent as much light pollution from interfering with stargazing. Passing a household that had a screaming baby within, Dib determined he liked night much better than daytime- he could see perfectly fine, and the decrease in ambient noise gave his poor antennae a much needed break. Nobody was around, so the hybrid cautiously allowed the stalks to settle into a natural position and opened his eyes fully.

His race was stupid. He had come to terms with this ages ago, but never once did he consider that it would work to his benefit. Rounding a corner and flipping the latch on the park's gated entrance, Dib let it sway open behind him as he crossed the wood-chipped ground and began to scale the play structure. The roof of one of the towers was flat enough to lie on and at the perfect angle to look at the sky, and Dib found the ascent to be pathetically easy. The pads of his hands gripped the cold metal and his claws left scores in the plastic (oops) as he scrambled lithely to the top. Sighing out slowly and settling against the plastic, Dib propped his bare feet over the lip of the roof and let his toes hang over the edge.

It had been a long time since he'd had the leisure of relaxing and just watching the night sky. He used to do it with his mom before she'd died, and he'd religiously kept up the tradition long after she'd passed. The only thing to ever succeed in interfering with the sacrosanct routine was the arrival of Zim, and even then Dib spared a night here and there to devote to the universe far above him. He'd never break the habit, nor did he want to- it gave him a gentle sense of solace after a long and difficult day, and he'd never tire of stargazing anyway.

Antennae flicking against his will, Dib slid his eyes down at the sound of woodchips shuffling under shoes. Two teenagers not much older than himself walked through the gate he'd left open and leaned against the playset, their conversation clearly audible to the hybrid but not interesting in the slightest. One reached into his pocket and withdrew a wrapped object, and the other flicked the flint of a lighter to get a flame going and light it. Dib curled his lip in disgust as he tore his eyes from them and resumed watching the stars. They hadn't noticed him up here, and if he kept still and quiet, they probably never would. He wouldn't let two druggies ruin the only time he ever felt connected to his mother if he had any say in the matter.

A thin trail of smoke snaked its way up into the sky, and Dib internally cursed as an ill-timed breeze wafted a cloud of it into his face. Ugh. That was definitely not cigarette smoke. But again, Dib wouldn't have cared if only he could have kept to himself until they left.

But, with watery eyes, Dib waved the cloud away and couldn't hold back a cough into his sleeve. Immediately gaining the attention of the two at the bottom of his perch, the taller one hid the joint behind his back and craned his neck up, the other scanning the surrounding area before also taking a few steps back and looking up.

"What are you doin' here, kid?" The short one demanded tensely, standing on the ends of his feet to try to get a better look at Dib.

Groaning to himself, Dib waved a hand vaguely in the air so he didn't have to make eye contact or allow his head to be seen. "Watching the stars. The park is for everyone, you know."

Hearing only silence, Dib assumed they'd chosen to ignore his presence and resume their illegal activity. However, a slight rattling vibration from under him told him otherwise as one of the boys climbed a few steps of the tower and stopped, as though considering something.

"Well, you need to leave. We're, uh, kinda busy at the moment."

Dib frowned at that. He wasn't bothering them, and he wasn't tired yet- going back home would be a boring waste. "I really don't care what you're doing. Just don't bug me." He offered, crossing his arms languidly over his stomach as he attempted to ignore the two and return to his small world of peace they had shattered simply by showing up and addressing him.

"Don't bug you? You're bugging us, you twerp! Go find a roof or a tree or another park to skulk in." The short irritable one still on the ground said, and Dib's eyes narrowed. Leaning part of his head over the edge, he allowed his golden Irken eyes to roam over the two and steadily unnerve them as time ticked by.

"I was here first. Leave me alone, potheads." Dib obstinately informed them, flipping back over and counting down.


"P-potheads!? I mean, yeah you're right, but still!" The one on the steps exploded, taking a few threatening paces higher. "Come down now and leave or we'll drag you out. This is the only place the cops never look, and we can't just go somewhere else. You can."

Dib grumbled to himself in annoyance. "Too bad I won't." He retorted, pulling his feet up from the ledge to make it harder for his two new assailants to reach him as he dropped the bomb that he knew would set them off.

In all honestly, their attempt was more or less hilarious. The two of them trying to cram themselves up the stairwell of a children's playset at once made for an amusing sight, and Dib allowed his head to continue to hang over the ledge and observe them until they got too close for comfort.

"What's up with your eyes, freaky kid? And why are you the color of two day old pea soup? Huh? Huh?"

Dib bit back a laugh. What the hell kind of stoner comparison was that supposed to be?

"Roy, get down. I'm gonna climb up there and shove the kid off." Dib heard the whispered order, and a shuffling of fabric indicated the other had complied. A little worried now, Dib wondered if, in retrospect, irritating two high-strung teenagers in the middle of the night alone on a playground near the woods was such a good idea.

Scrabbling back out of arms reach, Dib only remembered to lower his antennae at the last possible moment and squint before the still unknown boy's head popped up over the side of the plastic roof. Dib cast a glance at the ground- that was twelve, maybe thirteen feet down. A fall like that wouldn't kill him, but it would hurt like a bitch.

"I almost got him! A little higher, bro!" Dib's breathing picked up as the extra few feet gave the teen ample room to reach him, and when a hand was fisted in his shirt Dib's reaction was purely instinctual.

Clawing and biting at the offending arm, the howl of pain that echoed through the quiet night was like a victory call to Dib's pitched-forward antennae. Only dimly registering the bang his head received when the two-man tower toppled and all three collapsed, Dib raked his claws down the kid's arm. "That was for messing up my night!" Dib thought angrily as he felt himself being carried down the steps like a raging cat throwing a fit. Why did this shit always happen to him!? And in the stupidest, most unassuming of circumstances to boot!

Lashing out with a foot and leaving two parallel scores through the kid's jeans and drawing a little blood, Dib savored the yelp of pain. "And that was because I was already in a bad mood and you morons decided to fuck with me!" Pulling his trump card when his shirt still wasn't released, Dib chomped down on the kid's forearm.

Ick. The blood was like an iron-y, salty penny, but Dib only bit harder as he felt a second pair of arms attempt to remove him from behind.

"Get it off, man! Get it off! This kid has some wicked sharp nails and teeth!" The now rather scuffed-up teen pleaded with his friend as Dib resolutely refused to unlock his jaws. How could these fools still have not realized he wasn't human?

"What are these?"

Dib's eyes widened at the question as he felt the world spinning with the gravity of his situation. Zim's words from the day before streamed through his mind in a panicked rush; "Your antennae are sensitive, as I'm sure you've found out. Never allow them to be used against you."


Roy's discovery spelled doom for Dib as a pain shot through his body when an antenna was roughly yanked. Instantly letting go with a cry, Dib scraped at the teen's hand in a desperate attempt to dislodge the grip. A muffled noise of discomfort from behind him proved he was doing damage, but another merciless tug had him curling in on himself. Was this lumbering oaf going to rip his new antenna right out of his skull with his stupid sweaty hands!?

"George, what the hell is this thing…? I thought he was human, but look at these!"

Dib cracked open an eye as the pain subsided, but was well aware of the hand that still held a black stalk hostage. Putting all the venom and loathing he could into one loaded glare, Dib's jaws parted of their own volition as his tongue curled S's to make a threatening hiss.

This served only to cause George to slur out a "Whoah…!" and Roy to tighten his fingers, making Dib break his hiss with a grimace.

"If you don't let me go, I'll… uh… I'll suck out your brains and eat them!" The hybrid shrilly threatened, letting out a pained "Ow!" when his other antenna was pulled in reply.

"Dude, dude let's totally take it home!" Roy gibbered excitedly.

"I'm clearly a guy, you asshats!...OW!"

George leaned down and locked eyes with Dib, seeming to contemplate.

"C'mon man, I'll keep him quiet if you look out for the fuzz. This is bigger than smokin', bro."

Roy shrugged apathetically. "A'ight." He muttered, standing up from his crouch. "He'll make good target practice for my new bb."

The incensed part-Irken saw red. These buffoons had just captured an alien lifeform (sort of) and all they could think about was shooting little plastic pellets at him!? He bet he could hear more intelligent ideas coming from a rock!

Feeling a surge of rage, Dib felt as though a dormant portion of his brain he'd never accessed before jerked wildly awake in retaliation. A sliding metal "Shnk" was heard, and immediately his poor antenna was released- but not without a sickening snap and flash of white-hot pain.

Whipping around, Dib saw Roy stumbling back with a face white as paper and a small gash across his cheek. A shuffling behind him told Dib George had also retreated hastily, and Dib took the moment to bring his Pak leg in front of him. Almost stabbing himself in the process, Dib managed to clumsily maneuver it in front of his face to examine the small bit of red on the tip. Wiping it off on his shirt, Dib added another article of clothing to his growing mental list of laundry. Waving the leg away from him carefully, Dib felt as though part of his motor cortex was taking a stretch after a lifetime-long hibernation.

It was the oddest sensation, almost as strange as when he'd first rubbed an antenna. It felt as natural as having any other biological limb, but the unexpectedness and unfamiliarity with it put Dib at a loss. He felt as though an unnaturally long arm had sprouted out of his back, and the muscles to control it were there- he just didn't know how to coordinate them. It was spooky, and he was reminded of stories of people who had lost limbs but claimed they could still feel them.

Except in his case he'd, you know, gained one.

"Dib! Get your pathetic human self- ah, yes, you're no longer completely human are you?... Hm… well, get your pathetic mutant self over here!"

Dib turned a quick circle like a dog startled from behind, one antenna moving to locate where the voice was coming from among the trees while the other remained limply plastered to his skull. Triangulating successfully in a matter of seconds, Dib darted past the teenagers with speed he already knew exceeded a human's and dashed into the woods. Surprised and indignant shouts echoed from behind him, but the hybrid dodged trees and cleared bushes like a creature built for the forest. Running on autopilot, Dib loped along a moment before stopping and deciding he'd gone farther in than the humans would dare to follow.

His lungs efficiently sequestered the oxygen away, and Dib was amazed to find he wasn't strained or panting in the least. Irkens were physically superior to humans, it seemed.

"Dib smell-piss-ant-trash-filth-grub! Up here!"

Dib flicked his eyes above him and made out a vague shape among the branches of a tree, and prepared to launch himself up to the lowest hanging bough.

Irkens may have been physically superior, but if they all had the same mental capacity as Zim… well, they had a long ways to go yet.

"Why are you here, Zim?" Dib ground out quietly, hearing the far-off tromping and stumbling of Roy and George nowhere near his position.

A cloud in the night sky scudding away from the moon dispelled the shadow, allowing a sliver of moonlight to illuminate half of the Irken; half was all Dib needed to tell the jerk was smiling at him.

"Zim was out walking Gir-"

"At two in the morning!?" Dib interrupted, looking around for said robot but finding nothing.

Zim suffered him a glare, but picked up where he had left off. "I was walking Gir, when I heard your squealy scream of lady-like pain."

"Hey! I don't scream like a lady!"

"Do too."

"Do not!"

"Do to."

"Do not!"

"Meat child!"

"Space fungus!"

"Fecal pig!"

"Slimy bug man- OWW!"

Dib gingerly touched his abused antenna when it tried to flick forward with its partner in anger, holding in a whimper of pain. Shit did that ever hurt.

"Your antenna is popped out of place."

Dib crossed his arms and huffed at Zim, giving the other a stink eye. "Reeeally? You don't say!"

"Come here, smelly monster."

Dib barely had time to register the order before Zim had nullified his own request by going to him instead. Perching on the same branch, Dib dug his toes farther into the bark of the tree as the limb swayed under the added weight.

An uninvited prodding to the injured antenna had Dib hissing and backing away, only just catching himself before a claw instinctively shot out to slice at Zim.

"Rrrgh! Filthy meat child, I'm trying to help you!" The Irken snarled in frustration, antennae flattening. He could sympathize with the Dib's painfully dislocated stalk- he'd had his own antenna almost yanked out once himself- but the hybrid was being foolish. What did he expect to do? Run to a hospital and be discovered, or crouch in a cave somewhere until the wound healed incorrectly?

Dib disregarded the Irken's words and pressed his back against the tree trunk, flinching forward when his Pak-covered spine twinged at the impact.

Zim made a deliberate effort to relax, scooting along the branch towards Dib again with a sour expression. "I need to pop this back in, Dib. You have to push away the instinct to run and hide or I'll have to re-break your antenna if it heals wrong."

Dib's flighty heart slowed down a bit, but he still remained tense as Zim made humming sounds while observing his pinned antenna. Unaware he had steadily shrunk away throughout the examination until Zim grabbed his shirt front and hauled him forward again, Dib suppressed a whimper in his throat before it could slip out. He'd broken an arm once as a kid, but the pain radiating out from his skull now made that feel like a walk through a meadow.

"This is going to hurt, Dib beast." Zim informed Dib as he carefully braced a hand against Dib's head and wrapped the other around the injury.

"H-how much?" Dib stammered, already disliking the feeling of another being touching his antenna. It felt almost like a violation of some sort; like some sort of taboo creed had been broken despite the intentions behind it. Zim looked equally put-off by the situation, but a tightness around his red eyes proved his determination to see it through.

"A lot. Don't stab me with that stupid leg you barely know how to use, either." Zim replied airily, wincing at Dib's shriek as he swiftly popped the antenna back into place without warning.

Zim made a hasty retreat along the branch and Dib watched out of the corner of his eye as he wrung his hands like they were dirty. As if through a haze, the half-Irken groaned and leaned against the rough trunk with no regard to the pangs of pain from his back. It felt as though someone actually had ripped his antenna out this time, but beneath all the discomfort was the realization that his new anatomy felt right again. He could twitch his antenna despite the pain it caused, and that was certainly better than not being able to move it at all.

"Thanks…" Dib managed, bringing a hand up to poke at the base of the black stalk gently. Ouch. That'd be swelling for sure.

"Hmph." Zim grunted, crossing his arms and sizing Dib up critically. "Huma- er, Dib slime, it seems as though combat training should be what we cover first when you return for further instruction. You fight like a bitch."

Dib felt his drained energy return in a rush and stood angrily. "Who said I was gonna come back, Zim? I should be furious enough to kill you right now."

If looks could kill, Zim would have died several times over.

As it was, looks could not in fact kill- so Zim was more than alive enough to hiss in rage and stomp along the narrow tree branch towards Dib.

"You can't simply ignore what you are now, Dib. Hate me or not, your pathetic self needs the amazingness that is ZIM!"

Dib gave a short hiss of his own, crouching in preparation to spring at Zim, the several feet off the ground be dammed- if he landed on top of Zim it would only make the fall more worth it.

"How did you expect to go to skool on Monday with eyes like those?"

The quietly posed question threw Dib off and his heated glare lessened a little. "Well… I uh..." Dib stammered, hand coming up to rub at an eye self-consciously.

Zim smirked knowingly, posture not defensive in the least as he stood at the trembling end of the branch with an ease of balance Dib felt he'd never obtain even with combat training.

"Oh, you'll return Dib. You need the special contacts only ZIM can provide!"

Dib bit his lip angrily. Zim had him there; he couldn't just ditch skool for the rest of his cursed life, nor could he show up with giant oval pools of amber where his glasses and pupils used to be.

"Just this once, Zim. But only because I need what you ha-"

The conversation was abruptly cut short by a blundering, crashing noise in the undergrowth like a herd of elephants prancing by. Dib's head whipped down in the direction of the noise, and he smothered a groan of pain as his injured antenna automatically twitched and moved to better pick up the sounds. Creeping back along the tree warily, eyes scanning the gloom for the source of the sound, Dib huddled against the trunk. It had to be Roy and George again- they must have heard his scream when Zim fixed his antenna.

"Dib. Don't be stupid- get the drop on them now while you have the element of surprise." Zim's voice whispered from some point above Dib, and he spared only a brief moment to puzzle how the Irken had gotten there before the two teenagers broke through a wall of bracken and stumbled into the tiny clearing.

"This is so asinine. I'm hiding in a tree in the middle of the woods with two potheads at three in the morning. Don't I have better things to be doing?" Dib asked himself as he tracked the two's path across the forest floor.

Setting his jaw, Dib released from the tree and scraped his way down the bark like a cat. He DID have better things to be doing than harassing these teenagers and vice versa, and if Zim was going to try to goad him into another little late night tussle, he wasn't up for the game.

Locating the sound of the city, Dib shoved his hands in the pockets of his trench coat and walked in the opposite direction from George and Roy and, hopefully, Zim. The two fools would find their way out eventually- the city park wasn't that enormous- and if Zim had any wits at all he would recognize Dib's foul mood and keep a distance.

"Dib-stupid! You had them! Why let them go?"

Dib's odd teeth ground together. Zim would never learn, would he? Looking up at where the Irken was suspended between trees from his spider legs, Dib knit where his eyebrows would be if he had any and gave Zim a hard stare.

"Because I'm not a killer like you."

Zim's open mouth and miffed expression fell away at this, being replaced with something that seemed almost insulted.

"Zim is not a murderer! I only meant for you to knock them around a bit- you know, make them rue your name and such."

Dib snorted and rolled his eyes, spotting the treeline and gate in the distance with relief. "I don't feel like it. Too much on my mind." He mumbled, resolving not to look back at Zim.

"How can you possibly object to returning pain caused to you? It seems fair to me."

The resolve was immediately broken as Dib whirled around and grabbed one of Zim's spider legs. Hauling it away from the tree, the alien crashed to the ground in a heap with an "Oof!"

"Because, Zim. Humans aren't like that. You don't just hurt people because you think they deserve it. But you wouldn't know- you don't feel anything."

Zim rolled his dark red eyes up to squint at Dib from his place on the ground in thought. "But you aren't truly human anymore… now are you?"

Dib broke at that statement. He was human! On the inside! And Zim would never take that away; not with a Pak, not with military training, not with anything.

Lunging at Zim, Dib balled his hand into a fist and cracked the Irken squarely in the face with a satisfying thud.

"Ow! You little piss monkey, what was that for!?"

Dib shrugged and kept a blank look as the Irken held his jaw in pain. "I did it because it felt good. And, going by your logic, you deserved it."

Zim hissed, antennae rising in anger. That stupid, ungrateful little…! He'd changed him into a part Irken so his pathetically short life wouldn't end after a few decades, and he gets punched as thanks?

But before Zim could scrape himself off the ground to fight back, Dib was gone. Only the pattering of his running footsteps growing ever fainter indicated he'd took off, and Zim groused to himself as he pulled on his wig and popped in his contacts. Like it or not, amends needed to be made or the Dib-stink might do something foolish in his pathetic misery.

So, bolting after Dib, Zim pondered what he'd said.

"You don't feel anything."

It wasn't true. He was a defective; cast out and unwanted. He knew he could feel when the rage enveloping him had driven him to destroy his main computer room in a fury after the Tallests' transmission was cut.

He also knew he could feel when he'd looked around at the decimation and eked out a faint "Sorry." to his computer without understanding why, before setting Gir to work fixing up the rubble.

And again when he'd noticed Dib's increase in height and age, and a strange weight had pressed against his chest. The one person he had a connection to would eventually leave him as well, and the foreign sense of desperation and loneliness had driven him to start work on Dib's Pak that very night. So what if it was illegal? It wasn't like his Tallests were going to check up on him or anything…

"Dib! Dib, wait!" Zim called out when he hit the streets and saw a flash of Dib's signature black trench coat swirling around a corner. Giving chase, he cursed when he recognized the street they were on- Dib's street. Getting the lead out, Zim realized he wasn't going to catch up to the fleeing hybrid when the front door to his house slammed in his face just as they both scrambled up the walkway and porch.

"…Dib? I know you can hear me, you sweaty pig monster."


Hm. Not very tactful. "I'll… see you tomorrow. And Dib?"

The faintest of shufflings behind the door told Zim the hybrid was still there and listening.

"Sorry. And for the record, I do feel."

On the other side of the door, Dib rested his chin on his knees with wide eyes. Had Zim been abducted and replaced by an alien? Almost immediately the irony hit him, and Dib gave a short laugh. An alien, being abducted and replaced by an alien… the hilarity was almost too much for him in his mentally exhausted state, and he stood and clomped up the steps to his room letting out short insane giggles every now and then. Opening his door, gathering up his sheets, and pulling off his coat and shirt, he added them to the pile. Changing into his pajamas, Dib wearily touched the base of his antenna and let out a long whine. He'd better take care of this laundry now if he wanted covers tomorrow night…

"You look shitty."

Jumping at the exclamation and tilting his head to hide his injury without knowing why, Dib eyed his sister. Clad in purple flannel pajamas and looking disturbingly neat despite having likely been asleep, she had her hands on her hips critically as she took stock of the scrapes and swelling antenna.

"I thought I told you not to get mugged."

Dib let a breath out, unsure why he had expected worse. Gaz was concerned- she was just burying it under a stinging layer of sarcasm as per usual.

"I didn't. I got into a fight with some potheads at the park."

Gaz's eyebrow rose delicately. "Doesn't sound like you. Why didn't you pussy out and run screaming?"

Dib heaved the bundle of blankets and clothing into his arms with ease and pushed past his sister. "I was watching the stars."

Before he had moved completely beyond her, Dib's wide range of vision caught sight of the acknowledgement flitting across her features. She knew about Dib's connection between space and their mother, and also knew the time was special to him. Dib must have been furious at the interruption.

"Do they look as shitty as you?"

Dib harrumphed, peering around the bundle of cloth as he tottered his way downstairs to the washing machine.

"They both look like they got mauled by a bunch of pissed off raccoons." Dib admitted with a hint of dark pride. They HAD messed up his night, after all.

"And you look like someone put your, uh… antenna… in a car compactor because…?" Gaz prompted, faltering only momentarily at labeling one of Dib's new features out loud.

Dib sheepishly opened the hallway door with his hip and kicked it aside, flicking the light switch with his elbow despite not needing the extra illumination. "Um… one of them got a hold of me from behind."

Gaz groaned and leaned against the doorframe as Dib stuffed his bundle into the washer. Squinting against the light, she gave him a disapproving look. "Aren't you aware that keeping your back guarded is important?"

Dib huffed short-temperedly, drizzling detergent over the clothes before slamming the lid down. "I know! I just…" He trailed off searchingly, waving a clawed hand in the air vaguely.

"You just fight like a little girl." Gaz finished for him, yawning and growing bored with the discourse at the early hour and wishing to return to sleep. "You should at least let Zim teach you how to not make a pathetic fool of yourself if you're ever attacked again." Gaz imparted this last gem of wisdom before leaving the bright utility room and padding back upstairs.

"I'd sooner play tag with a herd of bears than have Zim teach me anything." Dib venomously thought, twisting the knob and pulling it out to start the wash. Leaning against the warm machine as it vibrated with the cleaning cycle, Dib sorted through all the sensory information he could detect. Gaz was just getting into bed, the amount of chirping crickets seemed multiplied by the thousands, and the slushing of the wash in the machine was almost hypnotic to listen to. The room smelled like clothes both dirty and clean, soapy laundry detergent, and the lingering flowery smell of the dryer vent. And the ground beneath his two-toed feet was chill from the combination of being tiled and in the darkness for hours on end.

Scoring his feet across the surface, Dib let out an "oops." at the new hair-thin scratches spiderwebbing the floor. Would he ever get used to this body?

Speaking of which, his lone extended Pak leg was still folded up under his trench coat but not retracted at all. Could he put this stupid thing away safely so he wouldn't impale himself while sleeping? Trying to reach into that unfamiliar territory of his mind again, Dib yelped when the leg almost sliced a gash in his coat while unfolding.

Instead of ruining his nice jacket, it shot past and buried itself into the wall, right through the face of one of the relative's pictures hung up. Hrm… Aunt Bessie wouldn't be happy her face was half missing now…

Well, what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Pulling the picture off the wall and discreetly tossing it in the trashbin, Dib focused his attention back on his fifth limb.

Watching it warily like a cobra poised to strike, Dib did his best to will the appendage back inside the permanent mechanical backpack of sorts he now wore. Leg quivering for a moment before sliding back in, Dib released the breath he'd been holding as the hole it had vanished into closed a blue panel over the opening.

There were some neat little toys in this Pak of his, he was sure- Dib just didn't feel up to maiming himself in his curiosity.

Setting the machine to automatically begin a drying cycle once the wash was done, Dib flipped the light switch and left with a wide yawn. Complaining within his head as his claws caught in the rug here and there, Dib made it to his room and curled up on his bare bed. Draping the comforter over him, he fluffed a pillow tiredly before settling down and thanking Zim's incomplete tinkering with his DNA that he was still able to sleep.

Shit… he really did not want to go to Zim's house tomorrow…

This chapter was hard to write- don't know why. It just was. (I hope it didn't suck though.) I also wanted to thank all the people who reviewed last chapter! You guys rock, and seeing those reviews gave me the kick I needed to just suck it up and finish the chapter out. Stick with me- this story won't be abandoned. I promise~

Read and review, you awesome blobs of jello you :3