Sorry this took so long! Quarantine has *not* been good for my writing output - I'm a slow writer at the best of times and the bulk of my writing is usually done while I'm procrastinating on other things
Hopefully you guys won't have to wait as long for the next!
Anyways, hope you enjoy, and I hope to hear your thoughts! Comments honestly make my day and I appreciate each and every one of them!

Dib was poring over the blurry pictures he'd managed to snap of the exterior of his nemesis's base with a magnifying glass, trying to find some sort of clue as to his capabilities. Know thy enemy, wasn't that what people always said? So far, he'd turned up little (except for even more evidence of just how terrible Zim was at camouflage), but surely if he was smart enough, was observant enough, he'd be able to turn all those disparate details into actual conclusions. It felt like puzzle pieces were on the verge of slotting together in his mind, but no matter how he tried, he couldn't make that last logical leap, and it frustrated him to no end. There had to be something he was missing. Some final detail that would make everything click and finally reveal the larger picture.

He groaned, letting his head fall against the desk with a dull thump.

Ow. Ow. That had not been a good idea. He was probably going to get a bruise there. The perfect capstone to a shitty day. And now Gaz was yelling. Just wonderful. He'd better go see what she wanted before she got annoyed enough to come up.

Opening the bedroom door, he hollered down a "What did you say?"

"I said, get the door, Dib!"

"But you're closer!" he whined. She was, he knew she was. She was on the living room couch, in all likelihood, literally ten feet away from the door. But no, instead of walking that insane distance, she wanted him to come all the way downstairs.

"Do you think I care?" Gaz growled, and wow, that low and menacing tone had made his hair stand on end and had sent an involuntary shudder down his spine. You know what? Maybe it was best to get the door after all. It was completely his own decision, not motivated any by any sort of fear of his little sister, nope, not at all.

With a sigh, Dib made his way down the stairs and towards the door, where the doorbell was constantly ringing. He opened it, freezing in shock for a moment before immediately slamming it shut again. What. The. Actual. Hell. He couldn't have seen what he'd just seen, right? No way he would… It was too blatant, too- Oh, who was Dib kidding? Blatant might as well be his middle name, considering all he'd done thus far. But still, Dib had to be sure. Plus, if the constant ringing didn't stop soon, he was going to bash someone's head in.

Tentatively, he opened the door again, only to discover the nightmarish apparition was, in fact, still there.

Zim was standing there in front of him, a peeved look on his green face as he continued ringing the bell. He looked even more gaunt and inhuman than usual, and the part of Dib's mind that was still calm and logical filed it away with all the other clues as to what Zim had been up to during his absence.

After he'd rung the doorbell a few more times, the alien turned to him and practically yelled "Take me to the professor!"

The sheer audacity of him. Showing up at Dib's house, threatening his family? A slow, simmering rage built up in him. He was fine with the alien threatening him. (He wasn't, not really; in fact, it was kind of (very) terrifying, but at least he knew the truth, at least he could fight back.) But showing up here, threatening his defenseless family? Because that was what the alien was doing, and he knew it. It was a message to him. 'I know where you live. I know how to get to the people you care about. And if you try and hurt me, stand against me, I can destroy all you love like that.'

"Give me one good reason why I should." Dib replied with barely restrained fury.

The alien blinked, an obviously fake confused expression appearing as he scratched the back of his neck with his gloves. "Eh… because he's expecting me?"

Despite himself, the utter weakness of the attempted deception was actually kind of amusing. "Hah! Good one! Nice try, spaceboy, but you're not going to get one over on Dib Membrane!" he crowed. Turning a glare on the alien, his voice turned low and menacing. "Now, the truth this time."

"Ah, there you are! Come in, Zim! It's so good to finally meet you."

Dib startled at his father's voice, which had come out of nowhere. What. What? An expression of relief forming on his face, Zim pushed past Dib's limp body before he could recover enough from his shock to stop him.

"Of course it is!" Zim yelled. There was silence for a moment before he picked up again, still over-loud, but a good deal more awkward. Erm... I mean, it's an honor, Professor." Something on the floor appeared to be fascinating Zim immensely.

Dib looked back between his father and Zim in disbelief, not willing to believe what his eyes were telling him. Desperately hoping to interrupt this scene straight out of the Twilight Zone, Dib, finally able to shake himself out of his shocked stillness, stepped in between them, turning pleading eyes on his father, begging him to listen, to understand. Something cold ran down his spine at the thought of turning his back to the alien, but he wouldn't try anything here. Surely not. Not when he was still trying to keep up his pathetic, insulting disguise.

"Dad, wait, you don't understand! Whatever he told you to convince you, it's a lie! He's an alien, and he wants to take over the Earth—you can't let him near your inventions, you can't let him inside!" His voice was desperate, pleading, as a slideshow of nightmarish imagery flashed through his mind, faster and faster, detailing all the horrific things Zim might be able to do with access to one of the greatest scientific minds and some of the most cutting-edge technology in existence.

"Now, be nice, Dib." his father said, voice turning stern. "That's not a very kind thing to accuse someone of. Zim here is just- Well, I can't tell you what I'm doing with him, doctor-patient confidentiality, after all! I'm going to key Zim into the security systems, and while I do that, I want you to apologize." As his father walked away, a faint mutter of "poor, insane son" could be heard. Dib grit his teeth to the point where his jaw started to ache as he turned back to the gloating alien.

Zim was glaring at him, arms crossed over his chest, and a large bag on the floor next to him.

"Well? Zim is waiting." the green menace said, tapping his foot impatiently.

His father was at the far end of the room, setting up the security system, clearly well within earshot. It was perfectly clear to Dib in that moment that if he wanted to stay in his father's good graces and have any sort of chance at convincing him to hear him out in the future, he had to acquiesce to his father's demands. He had to apologize to the being hell-bent on destroying them all. It was disgusting, it made him sick, but for the sake of the planet, he could do it. He just had to… swallow his pride.

"I'm… sorry." Dib finally ground out.


Was the alien really going to make him spell it out?

"For… saying that you're an alien trying to conquer the planet," he eventually managed, feeling like he was gagging on every word as he forced them from his throat.

"Hmm. Apology appreciated, but not accepted." Nose upturned like the condescending bastard he was, Zim marched off towards his father, leaving Dib there to stew in his own frustration and uselessness.