Author's Notes: Written for Writer's Month and the prompt "Soulmate." I actually wrote the first scene last year for the prompt "Soulmates," then decided to finish it. I hope that you enjoy!
Dib first noticed that his soulmate words had appeared when putting on his trench coat in the morning. He blinked, pulled his arm back out of the sleeve and held it in front of his face. Without realizing it he held his breath, his heart hammering a bit faster. He adjusted his glasses and squinted as he read the first words that his soulmate would ever say to him.
"'Hey, you're that alien guy, right?'" He immediately scowled. "Really? Even my soulmate's gonna make fun of me about that? Figures."
He stared at the writing for a long moment, however, feeling the arm start to shake. He had known that his words would appear sometime soon, and had been expecting it with a sort of faint hope. On the one hand, he had little interest in romance yet, but on the other...well, getting your words was a sign that you had a soulmate. Someone who was, in theory, perfect for you. Someone who shared your interests and would make you happy to be around.
Dib didn't have many people like that in his life. It was nice to know that he'd meet one someday.
But this—well, he'd heard people say this before, and it had never sounded kind or comforting. It was like the universe was mocking him, telling him that even the person meant to understand him the most was going to think that he was some kind of lunatic.
He gave a short, angry sigh, then punched his arm back into his coat, hiding the words from sight.
Dib kept his head down as he walked into class that day. He didn't usually feel awkward around his peers (though many would argue that he probably should). He kept pulling on his sleeve as though afraid of somehow exposing his forearm. A lot of kids bragged about getting their words, but to Dib it felt private and faintly embarrassing.
He had actually forgotten that it was Valentine's Day, and he certainly hadn't brought any meat to pass out. Ms. Bitters almost didn't let them celebrate anyway, but after a call with the principal she declared that it was going to be allowed.
Most of the class cheered, pulled out decorations and began to trash the classroom. Dib looked on skeptically. He was mildly amused to see Zim on the other side of the room, cringing back in fear and confusion.
"Go ahead, pass out your Valentine's meat slabs. It's traditional," Ms. Bitters sneered.
Everyone but Dib and Zim got up and began to pass out their meat. Gretchen was the only one to lay a steak on Dib's desktop, smiling as she did so. Zim was actually getting some more attention from the other kids, which he shooed away with nervous and strident excuses.
"Ms. Bitters?" Dib raised his hand, then quickly put it down when he felt his sleeve slip down half an inch. She was looking at him, however, so he cleared his throat and asked, "I read that long ago people gave out cards and candy on Valentine's Day. How did the whole meat thing get started?"
"You don't want to know."
Dib was too distracted by that non-answer to notice Gretchen putting down more steaks in front of him. Ms. Bitters began to say something else, but suddenly an alarm went off and she was on the phone again.
"Ugh, another one?" She hung up and turned to the class. "To celebrate overcrowding in skool, a new student will be joining the class."
Said new student quickly arrived in a dark magenta jet that landed on the lawn; a girl climbed out, along with a black cat. The cat seemed to swirl through the air and land on the outside window ledge, sauntering over to Dib and narrowing its red eyes at him. He looked away, frowning. Vaguely he remembered Crop Circle Magazine's exposé from a few months back about a dangerous coven of jet-setting witches.
The girl was named Tak. She immediately got everyone's attention by flooding the room with Valentine's wienies for everyone to enjoy, and then got Dib's attention by announcing that Zim didn't get any.
"Wienies-smienies! Zim needs no meat!" the alien cried. Dib knew for a fact that human food was toxic to him, but from his indignant tone he suspected that Zim might have forgotten that fact himself.
"For him, I have prepared a poem." Tak cleared her throat and prepared to read from a piece of paper in her hands.
"Looks like Zim has a GIRLfriend!" Sara called, taking a bite out of one of Tak's wienies.
Zim, for his part, looked frightened by this whole weird scenario. Tak, meanwhile, looked furious at the interruption, tearing the paper in two.
"It's not NICE...to embarrass people. You should apologize, and—eat your eraser!"
She pointed at Sara, who looked stunned by Tak's retort. "Yes, Tak," she said, voice trembling a bit. "I'm sorry, Zim." And then she bit her eraser in half.
Tak went back to reading the torn paper, though she now sounded very bored.
"For longer than I can remember, I've been looking for someone like you,
Someone with a head like yours and a torso, too.
Birds sing and you're gonna pay, the end.
Here's some meat covered in barbecue sauce!"
She pulled out a slab of ribs and threw it into Zim's chest. He let out a scream, falling out of his desk and smoking. Dib pointed, looked around to see if any of his classmates thought this was unusual, and was annoyed when he got the expected response.
Looking back, Dib would admit that Tak's entry into the classroom was a little odd. But then, he was used to strange behavior from his classmates, and compared to Zim's first day she seemed downright normal.
Dib spent the rest of the day as usual: watching Zim, staring at Zim, scribbing a few notes in History and then glaring at Zim. His enemy responded in kind, though after a while Dib realized that he also kept looking at Tak, who was sitting in the desk behind him. She seemed to notice, eyes narrowing at Zim while the rest of her face remained impassive.
He actually forgot about his soulmate words until he got home and changed into his pajamas. He grimaced but then tried to ignore them. It wasn't like he could get rid of them or anything.
Another normal morning the next day—listening to Ms. Bitters ramble, observing Zim, trying to ignore the paper balls bouncing off of his head. The main difference was that one of them hit Tak, who turned around and hissed at The Letter M for throwing it. The Letter M then slammed his own head in his desk.
Dib spent recess alone, sitting on the wall around the playground with last Valentine's meat. He was about to start his usual routine—scanning the area for Zim and then spying on him—when he heard someone speak.
"Hi. You're the alien kid, aren't you?"
Dib jumped and spun around. Tak was standing there. Dib grabbed his forearm instinctively, then began to stammer.
"Wha—what did you say?"
"You like aliens and ghosts and stuff, right? That's what everybody else."
Dib looked down as though he could somehow see his words through his sleeve. "Yeah?" He tensed in anticipation of an insult.
Instead, Tak sat on the wall next to him. "I think there's something weird about that Zim kid."
That was enough to distract Dib from the way that Tak had greeted him. Misunderstanding his response, Tak quirked her head and said, "What, you don't think so?"
Dib cleared his throat. He remembered that he was holding a steak in his hand and figured it polite to offer some to her, but she turned away, making a face. Dib used the brief moment to help collect his thoughts.
"No, it's just that I'm not used to people actually being interested in my paranormal studies. As for Zim, well—agh!"
Zim appeared out of nowhere and pushed Dib off the wall. He let out a cry as he landed in the dead bushes on the other side.
"I have come to accept your feelings for me, I congratulate you for acknowledging my superiority in choosing me as your love-pig. FEEL HONORED!"
Dib paused in the act of untangling himself to hear Tak's response. For a long moment the sounds he heard were of birds flying overhead and a cat from a nearby yard. Then he heard Zim scream, though he couldn't catch the cause.
"Maybe you really are an alien like Dib says. A horribly disguised, disgusting, horrible one?"
"Nonsense! Despite his huge head, the Dib-monkey is quite stupid."
"My head's not big!" called Dib, who quickly went back to freeing himself from the woody brambles.
"Now prepare your brain, filthy beast of meat and hair, your magical love adventure begins NOW!"
Dib managed to climb back over the wall just in time to see Tak shove Zim in a trashcan and kick him away. He rolled across the blacktop, crying in pain. Dib and Tak both laughed uproariously.
Just then the bell rang. "Well, that's annoying," Tak said. "Keep talking about this later?"
"Yeah, sure. If you want."
She ran off. Dib walked back to the skool more slowly and, once he was sure nobody was looking, pulled back his sleeve to look at his words again.
"'Hey, you're that alien guy, right?' She said that. And she wasn't making fun of me or anything, she just really wanted to talk about paranormal investigation!" His voice rose as he spoke, but then he winced and looked away when he noticed another kid staring at him.
"Or did she say that?" he muttered. "It has to be exact, right? Did she say 'alien guy,' or 'alien kid' or 'alien dude?' No, she definitely didn't say 'dude.' What did I say? If she's my soulmate then she must have her words by now too, but she didn't react to whatever I said. Do I even want her to be my soulmate? Or—"
"HEY, MAGGOT!" Coach Walrus had stuck her(?) head out of the skool, looking for any stragglers. "GET IN HERE OR IT'S FIFTY LAPS AROUND THE BUILDING!"
"But then I'd be out longer!"
Dib rolled up his sleeve and ran inside.
A few hours later Gaz was sitting on the steps of the skool, eyes glued to her Game Slave. As usual, her brother was one of the last people to come out of the building. Far less predictably, he was talking with a girl.
"And then she ground him up to use as an insecticide!"
"Well, that's stupid."
"Yeah, but—kinda cathartic to watch. Hey—do you wanna come over to my house? We have snacks and...stuff."
The girl smiled. "I would, but my ride's here." She motioned to the jet which was landing in the skool parking lot. "See you tomorrow!"
"Yeah! See ya!"
He had a big grin on his face as Tak boarded and took off. Gaz watched with such surprise that her eyes actually opened.
"Who was that?"
"Oh, that's Tak. She's new. And guess what? She actually believes me about Zim being an alien!"
"Wow. Guess that means she has at least two brain cells." Gaz was already walking home, with Dib running excitedly behind her.
"Man, it feels so great having someone listen to me for a change! I didn't have time to tell her much, though—maybe I'll bring all of my notes to show her tomorrow. Though I'd probably need the dolly to carry them all...I've been thinking about infiltrating Zim's base again, do you think she'd want to come with me? And I didn't even get a chance to ask if she's into any other paranormal phenomena!"
"Jeez, Dib. Sounds like you're about ready to pop the question."
To her surprise and mild amusement, Dib suddenly turned pink and sputtered indignantly.
Zim still seemed set on his "date Tak" plan over the next few days, which largely consisted of him trying to do romantic things for her and Tak putting him through horrible agony in response. To his credit, he actually seemed to understand romantic gestures better than others human customs—he was just really had at taking no for an answer.
Dib wasn't sure what his angle was. Was he after her family's money, or planning to poison their wienies or something?
Or maybe he actually had a crush on her. As horrifying a thought as that was.
Dib managed to talk to her whenever Zim wasn't around (which usually meant when he was off regrowing his skin). They mostly talked about Zim, though Dib's tendency to ramble meant that she often had to prod him to stay on-point. She never made fun of him, even when he broached the really out-there theories like the Loch Ness mummy or the zombie pudding. He told her about the times that he'd gotten into Zim's base, showing her all the schematics and diagrams that he had acquired for his efforts. She listened more than she spoke, but Dib was such an enthusiastic talker than he didn't really notice.
Of course, Dib also thought a lot about the whole soulmate issue. He kept stealing glances at Tak's arm, but she always wore long sleeves, so he didn't know if she had words or what they might be. What was he supposed to do, just ask if she was his soulmate? Dib usually didn't have much of a filter, but this was a topic that he didn't know how to broach.
He still didn't know if Tak was his soulmate—he wasn't even sure if he had a crush on her exactly—but...well, she listened to him, and she was cool and liked the same stuff that he did. He couldn't think of anyone whom he'd rather be soulmates with.
It drove him crazy, though, not remembering exactly what she had said the first time that she spoke to him. Maybe she didn't remember what he'd said, either, and that's why she didn't bring up the subject with him. It sounded like something from a romantic comedy, but it could happen, right?
All that went on until Saturday morning. Dib woke up when it was still dark and walked into the kitchen, yawning, only to find Zim sitting with at the table with his dad. He instantly straightened up and pointed, mouth open in silent shock.
"But that's just the way it worked out," Dib's father was saying.
"Yeah, yeah, I know what you mean." Zim brought a steaming cup to his lack of lips; in retrospect Dib should have let him drink it and possibly kill himself, but he was too surprised to be thinking ahead at the moment.
"Good morning, son," his father said calmly. "Your little foreign friend is here to see you."
Dib jumped onto the nearest chair, prepared to tackle Zim if he had to. "Dad, that's the alien! The ALIEN!"
His father chuckled. "Of course he is. You two have fun."
He strolled out of the room with his mug. Dib finished mounting the table. "What's going on, Zim?!"
His foe put down his drink. "It seems the enemies have a common enemy. Tak! She's Irken and she's after my job and your planet."
Despite himself, Dib felt his muscles relax. "Oh, come on. Tak can't be an alien, she's my—!"
He froze in mid-sentence. For one, he reminded himself that he didn't actually know if Tak was his soulmate, and more to the point, he wasn't about to spill that information to Zim of all people. His species probably didn't even have soulmates. Or souls. Or mates. Dib suspected that they reproduced through spores. He didn't have an evidence for that, it just felt right somehow.
Zim girned as Dib hesitated, climbing onto the table himself. "I've been trying to figure out her plan, but it's been difficult. She's GOOD! Not good like me, but still good."
Dib turned away. "This is just stup—"
"Forty-eight hours of trailing Tak and all I could come up with are these photos I wrestled off that Ham Demon. They're of a GIANT, EVIL WIENIE STAND her father has constructed. But that's nothing."
Despite himself, Dib's curiosity was piqued as he took the photos that Zim held out to him. "Hmm. Giant wienie stand is weird, but it doesn't say anything about Tak. Giant wienie stand...that's worth a look."
"I knew this was a bad idea. SHE'LL DESTROY YOUR WORLD!"
"I can't believe you're even saying this!"
Gaz wandered into the kitchen, drinking a soda despite the early hour. "Your voices are making me sick," she complained.
"And when the Earth is a smoking ruin you'll wish it had been ME who did it!"
Gaz splashed him with her soda, sending him smoking to the floor. Then she did to the same to Dib after Zim had escaped out the window.
Dib did intend to go check out the giant wienie stand, after taking a shower and changing into some less sticky clothes. (And maybe waiting until lunchtime so that he could kill two birds with one stone.) He wasn't sure if this was one of Zim's traps, some other evil scheme or just a really weird plan to sell hot dogs, but one thing he did know was that Zim was lying about Tak. He saw Dib with a potential ally and wanted to nip their friendship in the bud. Or—and now he was starting to really suspect this—he did have a thing for Tak and came up with this dumb plan to keep Dib away.
He scoffed, staring at his words before putting on a new trench coat. Imagine your soulmate choosing Zim over you. He couldn't think of anything more humiliating.
The point, he thought as he grabbed his latching device and headed for the door, was that this was one of Zim's tricks. And whatever the wienie stand had in store for him, Dib wasn't going to be fooled.
Zim was telling the truth.
Tak was an alien. The wienie stand was her evil device to destroy the Earth.
He, Gaz and Zim teamed up to stop her. They won. The planet was saved. Dib even managed to get a good look inside Zim's underground base, plant a bug for later, and get some ice cream out of the whole thing.
But still. He couldn't deny that this news felt like a dagger twisting in his gut.
That night, Dib took some of his equipment onto the roof and tried to get some transmissions from space. He was hoping for some cool alien signals to distract him. Or maybe some word about Tak to make him even more miserable.
Gaz came up, holding a hot dog in one hand and a plate with another. She sat down a few feet away from him. It wasn't until Dib glanced up that he realized that the one on the plate had been left out for him.
He began to eat. Gaz momentarily looked up from her Game Slave and noticed how depressed he looked, slumping over on the edge of the roof.
"Sorry your girlfriend was an alien or whatever."
"She wasn't my girlfriend," Dib snapped. Then, after a moment of thought, "Can I show you something?"
"It's not another blurry deer that you think is Bigfoot, is it?"
Instead of answering, Dib rolled up his sleeve and held out his arm. Her eyes opened a crack as she read the words on his skin.
"I got these the same day that Tak showed up in class. And the first time she talked to me—I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was really similar to this. So I thought..."
He rolled up his sleeve again. Gaz actually seemed at a loss for what to say.
"Well. Pretty sure nobody actually meets their soulmate when they're our age."
"I know." He sighed, picking at his cuff. "I hate my words. It's like even my soulmate is gonna make fun of me at first. But then when Tak said them...it's because she was actually interested in what I know. But only so she could out-Zim Zim in his stupid world domination plot."
He laid back on the roof, staring up at the stars. Gaz actually closed her Game Slave and regarded him.
"Well...I mean, your real soulmate could say it that way, too."
Dib raised his head a centimeter. "You think?"
"I bet she's some really annoying girl who spends all her free time listening to the sky and bothering her younger sibling. Everyone calls her 'the alien chick.' And then one day, someone will say to her, 'hey, alien chick, go talk to the alien guy over there.' And then she'll ask if you're the alien guy, and you'll fall in love and be really, really annoying together."
Dib thought about that as Gaz stood up and walked back into the house.
He was still thinking about that when he glanced back at the sky and noticed a small light. He craned his neck to see what it was. Then he realized that it was headed right towards him and jumped back with a cry.
The meteor smashed into the backyard, leaving a crater in the grass.
When the smoke cleared, Dib realized that it wasn't a meteor at all. It was Tak's empty spaceship.
Over the next few months, as Dib spent long hours trying to repair it, he decided that Gaz was right. He didn't want a soulmate at his age. He wanted to fight aliens, hack super-advanced technology and see other planets. So all in all, his short friendship with Tak had worked out just fine.