"Well, hurry up. I think I see an open spot."
Feeling himself being pushed along by Zim, Dib struggled to carry the grease covered tray, food wobbling precariously with each step. A sharp aroma was wafting up from the containers and reaching his masked antennae, which were already overwhelmed with the amount of noise the sheer mass of people were creating. He could not see this spot Zim was referring to.
"Can't we go somewhere else? I can barely breathe in this place and I'm having trouble hearing."
"Quit your whining, fuckwad. I'm not going anywhere with you unless there are plenty of witnesses. You won't be cheeky enough to pull a fast one if there are dozens of humans watching."
"Look, Zim, I thought we already determined that we're in a temporary truce right now. You pick out some non-lethal food for me, I blindly trust you and attempt to eat it."
"Zim has agreed to no truce. And certainly not one with you."
Dib sighed. Why did this have to be so difficult?
"Whatever. I don't even remember what the original problem was, so let's just go. After you."
Zim gave a small hmph before turning mechanically and marching away. Dib followed closely, not wanting to get lost in the crowd of earthlings.
Look at him. As soon as I comply, he's happy. What the hell is wrong with him if he gets so much satisfaction out of submission? This is dangerous. I shouldn’t be anywhere near this kid.
And yet, near that boy was exactly where Dib has chosen to be.
Zim was watching gleefully as Dib started to eat, sporting a terrifyingly smug smile.
"How is it?"
"I haven't even started yet, chill."
He poked precariously at the cup of noodles before him. They gave off a sharp scent that was making his antennae wither. Gingerly picking up a large green ball of mush, he asked, "What is this even?"
"Not until you answer me."
"Wasabi. Eat it."
That doesn't clarify, Dib thought as he slowly brought it up to his mouth. He noticed surrounding humans looking over questionably, so he decided to get it over with and not cause a ruckus. Zim was giggling to himself now.
This was such a bad idea. He shoved the entire blob into his mouth and swallowed.
No, wait, something. His mouth was starting to feel tingly, but nothing major.
"This isn't bad," he exclaimed bravely, "I don't know what you expected."
Upon hearing this, Zim froze in astonishment. No, horror.
"But how did you-"
"Different species have different taste buds, I'm assuming."
"Was that supposed to kill me or something?"
"No, just cause extreme discomfort. And maybe a medical emergency."
I cannot believe this, he thought as he consumed the rest of the mushy Earth noodles. I'm on a foreign planet, pausing my incredibly important mission and research, eating junk food with an alien. When did my life become this?
Despite this, he couldn't shake off an uneasy feeling. There was something familiar about his current predicament, almost as if he and Zim were on a...
The bell rung, jolting Dib out of his stupor. He got up to dispose of his trash but was stopped by a hand on his wrist.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“Back up to the labs. Were we not supposed to meet back up with everyone else after lunch?”
“They may have mentioned something like that.”
“Exactly, so let’s go.”
Zim had remained seated and was giving him puppy eyes. Dib cursed silently.
“...What do you want.”
“Have fun with that.”
This time Zim got up and held on tighter.
“Come with Zim.”
“No way in Irk! They’ll get suspicious if I just leave randomly. I’m not potentially jeopardizing myself just because you want company. You can let go of me, by the way.” He released his grip, never breaking eye contact with Dib.
"No they won't. It's completely normal for students in this grade to skip. They'll be more suspicious if you have a perfect attendance record."
Dib regarded him warily. For all he knew, every word Zim spoke was meant to mislead him. Although he could recall multiple times when classmates had failed to show up and the skool staff had failed to care. Maybe Zim was being honest; after all he did have more experience with these people.
Zim noticed Dib thinking and said quietly, "You're not the only one going undercover here, you know."
Dib gave an incredulous look but before he could ask for clarification Zim had grabbed his arm again and was dragging him towards the door.
"There's a mall just down the street, let's go! If we make it back before the bus leaves they'll never notice."
"Hey, wait-" Dib started to exclaim as he was pulled through the revolving doors but ceased when he saw the look on Zim's face.
Look at him. Grinning like an idiot. There's no way I can leave him now when he's this happy. This actually might not turn out so bad.
"Hey, try these on! They match your coat."
"Zim, you know human gloves won't fit me. I have three fingers. What you can see is a hologram, remember?"
"...Oh." Zim stared off into the distance, processing. His head barely poked out from the round racks of clothing he was browsing through. Not that the boy would be easy to lose, considering how loud he was.
"Does that mean you can't wear human underwear, either?"
"You can't just ask someone about their genitals! That's invasive!"
"And if I do? What are you gonna do about it, stand there and blush adorably?"
Dib stammered, only just noticing how hot his cheeks were. "I am not adorable," he said, pushing his glasses up with a claw, "I am formidable."
A beeping sound made Dib look down at his wrist; they'd been off for quite a while and the field trip was ending soon.
"Hey, Zim. We should probably head back."
No response. Dib looked up, not finding the other where he had been twenty seconds before. "Zim?"
He was nowhere in sight. How did he manage to elude me in that short amount of time? That can't be normal.
Dib put down the articles he was holding and walked swiftly towards the front of the store. Maybe he left to buy his stuff already. Dib was just walking through the front entrance of the store when an unbelievably shrill alarm went off, startling him and hurting his antennae. He doubled over in pain and staggered backwards, hitting something tall behind him.
He turned around and noticed a large metal protrusion right before the exit. This must be the source of the sound. Before, he had just assumed they were decoration, but now that he thought about it...
The structure was some sort of scanning device in order to prevent shoplifting. If it could detect his pak...
Horrified, Dib rushed through the exit but stopped when he felt a presence behind him. It reached out a hand to grab the back of his coat. His spooch skipped a beat as he waited for doom to arrive.
"Open up the bag, kid. No need to make this difficult."
It was a human guard who suspected him of theft. This did not lessen Dib's anxiety at all, for he was mere inches away from exposure. His words became jammed in his throat as his pulse quickened and he froze. He was unable to prove his innocence and incapable of explaining the situation.
"Don't make me taser you."
This was it. He was finished.
"I'm gonna start counting. I had better not reach ten."
Dib's life flashed before his eyes. A little smeetling Gaz knocked over his toys before the ghost on his tenth birthday stole all the cake. His graduation from the preliminary facility and his first plasma telescope. Then the Massive. The meteors. His father. The crash...
"What the fuck is going on?! Unhand him! Right now!"
Dib had never been so happy to see anyone in his life.
"This kid set off the alarm. I'm just doing my job."
He stalked forward, ripping Dib out of the human's grasp and standing between them..
"It's not his fault, dumbass," Zim said while pushing Dib closer to the door. He was whispering hurriedly to the other human; Dib couldn't hear his words.
The human became flustered, looking at Dib apologetically.
"Are we good now?" Zim growled forcefully, glaring at the taller being.
"Yes, we are. I am so sorry, young man, I had no idea."
Dib found his voice again and managed to cough out a response. "No, that's okay, don't worry about it."
"Perfect. We'll be leaving now." Zim threw back as he dragged Dib out the door. Thank Irk that alarm stopped. I'd be half-deaf by now.
And he'd certainly be in much worse shape if Zim hadn't come along when he did. It seemed Dib owed him something.
"Thank you so much, holy crap. I almost died back there."
"Zim accepts your thanks. Although the worst possible thing that could have happened would be you being sent to juvie. It's not that bad; you'd probably be able to break out in an hour or two."
They turned a corner in the massive hallway, heading towards the ornate front doors of the mall. Even on a weekday, there weren't many other people there.
"No, it really is a big deal. If they had found out about..." And then it hit him. Dib halted, looking straight at Zim.
"You told, didn't you?"
The other gave a small smirk. "Of course not."
"I'm serious, Zim! Did you tell?"
"No. I made something up to fool that dirty meatbag and it worked."
Dib narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Why would you cover for me? What did you say?"
Suddenly Zim burst into a fit of giggles, refusing to meet Dib's eyes. The irken was not nearly as amused.
"And just what is so funny?"
"YOU!" He was doubled over, laughing hysterically. "Glaring at me so damn sternly when you can't even walk out a store...!" He paused to wipe away tears. "Superior species, my ass!"
Dib flipped him the traditional Irken 'fuck you' gesture and kept walking. Zim followed, never losing the shit-eating grin.
"Awwwe, you weren't just going to leave me there, were you? How would you walk out the doors alive without me rushi-"
"You aren't exactly being friendly, so yes, leaving you was my intention."
Zim stopped dead in his tracks, glaring at him with the burning intensity of a volcanic eruption. "...Friendly?"
"Is that what you want from me? A friend? Is that all I am to you?"
"That's what I'd prefer, yes, life is easier when everyone is tolerable."
Zim glared at him and snarled, muttering to himself. "No one friendzones Zim. No. One."
Dib watched as the other turned tail and stormed out without explanation. Just like that, he was gone.
Sorry this is so late, I've been swamped with homework, plus my dad's birthday is Hallowe'en so I'm extra busy. I'm working as fast as I can on the next chapter and it will be posted either tomorrow or Saturday, Sunday at the very latest. Thanks so much for all the continued support! Seeing your guys' positive responses is what makes it worthwhile for me. Happy Hallowe'en!