Rage accumulated from deep within as Dib stared down at his phone, gaze transfixed upon the shattered screen.
Why should I have expected anything more, right? RIGHT DIB?
He gave a scoff, eyeing the mirror ahead. A pale gaunt face stared back at him.
It was the same as it had been for years. Like that was ever going to change. He was the outcast, the loser. Who would want to message him anyway? Who would want to waste their time on him?
That's right. Nobody.
Dib slammed his phone into his backpack, at that point in time he couldn't give the slightest shit if the device actually broke. He didn't even know why he kept it. Probably because some part of him wanted to see the words 'one new message' on there. He couldn't even remember the last time somebody had messaged him of their own accord.
A message. A notification. Anything.
He just wanted somebody to recognise he existed. Was it too much to ask for? He didn't think so.
Grabbing his jacket, the disgruntled teenager kicked open the staff door to head out. He hated his job. If the manager wasn't being a dick to him, then the customers were. Somebody was always there to make his shift hell. Someway or another, people had to make their dislike of him apparent.
"Fuck you Riley." Dib muttered, pulling out his phone again once outside of McMeaties, looking down at the message chain. Back then he'd at least been slightly hopeful. After all, she'd been the only girl to actually give him time of day this year. He really and truly hoped this time would have been a yes. But the possibility of finally having somebody to attend prom with had blindsided him – it had seemed too good to be true.
And it was. Clearly he had hoped for too much.
I'm looking forward to prom with you Dib!
His fists clenched and an image flashed – Riley in the arms of the blonde jock he'd seen enter the store only an hour or so ago. The look on her face when she'd spotted him behind the counter.
No words of consolation from Gaz.
Dib deleted Riley's message and blocked her number.
Once home, Dib threw down his backpack before staring across to his prom outfit. Like hell he wanted to go but he didn't have a choice. It counted towards his attendance grade.
The outfit was dusty. He'd had to dig it out from the back of his closet and had ended up sneezing all over it. Not like he cared anyway. Nobody was going to talk to him there. Hell, everybody would just avoid him like the plague. No different to any other skool day.
He just wanted tomorrow to be over and done with. Dib stood up and went into the bathroom, pulling off his shirt.
Dib loathed his appearance. Scars littered his pale skin. Red scabs and streaks zig-zagged across right wrist.
Gaz didn't care. His father didn't care. Nobody cared.
So why should he?
Dib stared at his clock, watching the minutes tick by. Prom started at six and he knew he was going to be late, but he didn't care.
He stared at a blue rose on his desk. Riley's favourite colour.
One swift sweep with his hand and the rose fell into the bin. Dib stared at it for a moment or so, the blue and green contrasting nicely against wilted brown apple cores.
And then he left.
Dib could hear the music from a mile away. The laughter, the voices. The sounds of happiness. He hated it all and wanted no part of it. He knew he could just turn and walk away but with his attendance record as shit as it was, there was no point. He'd stick it out.
Nobody wants you here.
Dib pushed open the doors.
Nobody cares about you. The minute they see you they'll laugh.
Dib proceeded inside. He blocked out everybody. The music, the laughter. All of it. But that voice wouldn't let up.
You're a failure.
"Shut up!" Dib hissed. "Shut the fuck up!"
"Look, Dib's talking to himself again!"
The teenager looked up. Rita was pointing to him, and all eyes were on him at that point. Fucking typical. Not even one minute in and others were making his night hell, just because they could.
Ignoring it, Dib went across the hall, sitting up in the rafters. He hated this place. The music was far too loud and he was already getting a migraine.
He glared at the floor for what seemed like forever, until a pair of feet appeared in his vision. Black boots underneath long maroon pants.
Dib really wasn't in the mood for Zim. Months worth of bullying, taunting and neglect had all piled up in his head. Riley had been the final straw.
And now this idiot was going to make the night even more hellish than it already was.
"I have come to—"
Dib finally snapped. Pushing Zim roughly, he didn't turn back as he heard the alien stumble backwards over the rafters.
Dib sat against the side of the corridor, just outside of the hall. He heard it all, the screaming, the yelling. The commotion inside as people rushed to aid his nemesis. It was only when paramedics went past him suddenly that his heart almost stopped. Dib leaped up, running in after them. A crowd had formed around Zim. Dib shoved them aside.
Eye's closed, the alien was lying on the floor.
Dib paled. Tears pricked at his eyes before he wobbled on the spot and vomited. Students screamed and ducked backwards, yelling profanities at him for getting sick all over their prom outfits. Dib couldn't hear them. All he could hear was a rushing sound in his head and his heartbeat pounded in his ears. He hadn't ever intended for this to happen.
Seeing Dib's sporadic behaviour, one of the paramedics helped him sit down.
"Is he okay?" Dib rasped as he was cleaned up and the paramedic checked his vitals.
"Badly sprained ankle and a few bruises," the paramedic replied. "He's very lucky nothing's broken after that fall."
Dib felt a wave of relief wash over him. The paramedics gave Zim some strong painkillers and then left. Mr Elliot, Zim's home-room teacher, helped Zim over to the rafters to sit down.
"What happened?" he asked, looking at Dib.
Dib sighed. He was in real deep shit now. "I got—"
"Tripped..." Zim muttered, cutting him off and Dib's eyes widened at that.
Mr Elliot sighed. "Just take it easy, Zim. I won't expect you in class until it's healed but you will still need to catch up on homework. And Dib?"
Dib paled. "I–I– he— "
"Make sure he has somebody to collect him."
The teacher walked away and Dib was left alone with Zim.
"W-why?" Dib asked shakily, sitting down on the rafters beside Zim. Around them, the commotion had died down. People had gone back to laughing and dancing and a janitor was cleaning up the floor.
The alien glared at him. "Because if anybody is going to kill you for this Dib-shit it's going to be me! Not them!"
Dib sighed. He put his head into his hands. "I'm sorry Zim," he rasped before he couldn't hold back anymore and his body shook violently with heavy sobs. "I'm so s-sorry... I didn't want this to happen..."
Zim stared at him, eye's widening slightly. He'd never seen his enemy in such a state before and was unsure of how to respond but in this case, no words were needed. Zim shifted beside him and a brief moment later Dib felt something brush gently against his lap. Using his sleeve to wipe away tears and clear his vision, he looked down. A single blue rose was nestled there, contrasting against the black of his suit.
"W-where... did y-you..." Dib stuttered, unable to process the sight before him, amber eyes darting back and forth as he looked into Zim's purple contact covered ones.
Zim didn't answer him, simply looking to the ground as Dib had done before.
"Is this why you...?"
Zim grit his teeth. "Look! I saw what happened yesterday, okay Dib-stink?! GIR wanted McMeaties and Zim thought that... that it might," he sighed. "I thought it might make you feel better. Or something."
Dib blushed. He sat up, wiping the back of his sleeve against his eyes.
"Will you be alright?"
Zim waved his hand at him, revealing the painkillers. "Yes, yes. Zim has been through worse during Elite training. I can handle a sprained ankle."
As the students gathered for the announcement of Prom King and Queen, Dib stood up before Zim. He knew Zim had just as much interest in being there as he did.
Zim tilted his head at him, before his eyes widened as Dib picked him up bridal style.
"What are you?! PUT ME DO— " he started to hiss before Dib put a finger to his mouth.
Dib snuck behind the rafters and around past the students, quickly exiting out into the corridor. He carried Zim outside into the cool night air, walking down the street to his rust bucket of a car parked at the end of a cul-de-sac.
Opening up the door with his key, he set down Zim on the back seat before climbing in beside him. Zim stared at him in the dark, eyes gleaming from the shine of the streetlight above.
"So... now what?" Dib asked quietly.
"What do you mean?" Zim's response finally came.
Dib pulled out the rose, twisting it about in his hands and Zim looked away.
"Like I SAID Dib-worm, I was trying to make you feel better."
"Did you get this from my bedroom?"
Dib got straight to the point. "Do you like me Zim?"
Zim went quiet again at that. He twisted his hands about in his lap as Dib waited for an answer.
"I... don't know!"
Dib clenched his fist. "I'm so tired Zim. So god damn sick and tired! Tired of people lying to me, people acting like they want to be my friend but then turning on me as soon as they realise what I'm like. I've had enough of feeling like shit, Zim! You have no idea what it's like to go home each day after being bullied and beat up like a pulp to a sister that only wants to beat the daylights out of you and make your life as miserable as possible, or a father that thinks you deserve to be in a mental institution for your beliefs!"
More tears pricked at Dib's eyes.
"I have nobody, Zim!" he slammed his fist against the back of the car seat. "Nobody! Absolutely, fucking NO ONE."
Zim was quiet beside him. Dib didn't bother to wipe his eyes this time as Zim reached across and took his right wrist, pushing up the sleeve.
He stared for a long time before muttering something Dib couldn't make out.
"ONLY I HURT YOU DIB!" he screeched loudly, and Dib reeled back into the door. "I'm not stupid, I've seen these before!"
Dib turned away but Zim grabbed his face and turned his head to face him, the alien stubbornly crawling across to him as much as his injured ankle would allow. Dib took the sudden unexpected slap from him, his cheek flaring with pain.
"IF YOU HAVE NOBODY, THEN WHAT IS ZIM? HUH?"
Dib swallowed. Zim continued.
"YOU STINKING HYOOMAN!" he roared. "IN CASE YOU'VE FORGOTTEN, I'VE BEEN BANISHED HERE! OR DID THOSE STUPID BRAIN MEATS IN THAT STUPID BIG HEAD OF YOURS FORGET THAT?"
Dib couldn't face him. He squeezed his eyes shut as more tears threatened to overflow.
"You're so..." Zim grit his teeth and thrashed his fists. "DUMB! You– you...! DUMB THING!"
"Shut up Zim," Dib growled before he sighed. "Yeah, I cut. Big deal. It's the only thing that makes me feel better, y'know?"
"How stupid," Zim responded angrily. "Even Irkens would never do something so absurd."
"That's because you come from a species that doesn't wage wars on itself or bully each other, because you ALL look the damn same!" Dib sneered. "Aren't you a lucky bastard!"
Zim scowled at him. Dib simply turned and climbed out of the car.
The alien was about to shout out after him but when Dib climbed back into the front seat he realised he was just starting up the car to drive them home.
Zim looked out of the window quietly. Dib had pulled up somewhere unfamiliar to him.
"Where are we? This isn't the base."
Dib turned off the engine. He simply got out of the car and shut the door behind him, leaving Zim alone and the alien panicked knowing what Dib was like. They were at a lookout.
"Hey! HEY! HEY...!" Zim called after him, opening up the car door in desperation. "You come back here right now stinky hyooman!"
He hobbled out only to fall against the concrete as his leg buckled. Dib saw this and rushed back over to him.
"You fucking moron! Do you want it to get better or not? I wasn't going to be long!"
Zim slapped him again. Dib raised his fist to punch him but Zim grabbed it angrily.
"About us!" Zim yelled at him. "About Irkens!"
"What am I wrong about then Zim?!" Dib yelled back, sitting down on the grass opposite him. "Since according to you I'm wrong about everything else in life! A stupid 'hyooman' failure!"
Zim sneered at that response. "Irkens do bully each other! Just like hyoomans do!"
Dib went quiet at that as Zim slumped to the ground beside him, resting his back against the car door.
"Were you bullied then?"
"Of course I was," Zim spat at him. "By the very leaders I looked up to the most. Zim was nothing but a joke. Even after I devoted my worth to pleasing them. You know why Dib-shit?"
Dib scowled at the insult. "Why?"
"Because I'm defective."
Dib stared at him for a long time at that before looking away. "Defective?" he eventually asked quietly.
"Yes!" Zim roared. "The Tallest HATE defectives. EVERYBODY does! My PAK is full of errors!I'm not even a real Invader and I wasted all my time here for nothing! The mission was a joke so they could make a mockery of me and I was foolish enough to believe it!" he clenched his fists. "I was supposed to DIE Dib! Not find Earth!"
Unable to answer, let alone process the information he was just told, the other looked towards the ground in shock. Upon finding finding his voice again, he scooted a little closer to Zim. The alien refused to meet his gaze, arms crossed tightly across his chest, but Dib could feel his insecurity.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asked Zim quietly. "I thought you had just been banished here and that was it?"
Zim finally looked at him. "Because you're not some sort of special case, Dib-stink! You're delusional if you think you're the only one that's suffering! Zim is too, but unlike you I just don't hurt myself over it. Why should Zim suffer because others are too stupid to see his potential?"
Dib pulled back to sit on his knees. For the first time in a long time, he was stumped by the very alien he was supposed to hate the most.
It took him a moment to find his voice again.
"Do you think... I have potential then Zim?"
Zim stared at him angrily, before he bore an expression that Dib couldn't read. He shakily stood up, clutching the rim of window frame and then leaning into the back seat again through the open window itself, pulling out the blue rose and handing it to Dib.
"Does that answer your question?"
For the first time that night, Dib smiled. He looked across to Zim beside him in the passenger seat this time as opposed to the back seat.
The alien stared back at him through half-shut eyes.
"I uh... thank you Zim."
Zim sat up a little straighter. "For?"
Dib sighed. "I... won't do it anymore," he responded, looking at his wrist. "I promise."
"Good! Zim is the only one allowed to hurt you!"
Dib blushed slightly, eyeing the rose. "You didn't really answer my question, Zim."
Zim just looked at him. Dib continued.
"About liking me."
"I told you, I don't know."
Dib clenched the steering wheel. "Why don't you know?"
"Because I just don't, Dib-stink!"
"I JUST SAID!"
Dib stared in shock, before feeling utterly deflated. He pulled up at the base.
"Just get out, Zim." he muttered, throwing the rose out of the window.
Zim stared at him, confusion laced upon his features. "Why did...?"
Dib slammed his fist onto the steering wheel.
"Because I REALLY am not in the mood to have my feelings fucked around with right now space-jerk..." he seethed. "This won't be another Riley incident... especially NOT because of you...!"
"Dib-smell would you just—"
Zim scampered out of the car, using his PAK legs considering Dib wasn't going to help him. He made his way around to the pavement, putting his hands up as the car screeched away. Picking up the rose, Zim stared at it numbly before turning and heading into his base.