Title: Spectre
Author: Crimson Obsession
Email: Yes please! ^_^ crimsonobsession@hotmail.com
Site: http://crimsonobsession.envy.nu/
Fandom: Invader Zim
Categories: Agonizing Anguish, Shadows of Dread, Bleeding Hearts, Lost Souls
Type: Fanwork
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: None
Warnings: Torment of the major characters, throwing canon out the window, death
Disclaimer: They do not belong to me. They belong to the Almighty Thinnest, Jhonen Vasquez, and the winged monkeys that run Nickelodeon. May the monkeys be overthrown by the cool cats at Cartoon Network, and die slow painful deaths for what they did to Zim, and may Vasquez realize his destiny as Lord of All Humans.
Summary: The final story in the Betrayal Series. As the Earth prepares for war, Zim, Dib, and Gaz reach the final confrontation. Various POVs.
Notes: The continuation of 'Vindication' and 'When the World Ends', both of which can be found at my site, http://crimsonobsession.envy.nu/Writings/Writing_Index.html, and both of which were entered in last year's TU.

Spectre

-There's something about the look in your eyes,
Something I noticed when the light was just right.
It reminded me twice that I was alive,
and it reminded me (that) you're so worth the fight.

My biggest fear will be the
rescue of me...strange how
it turns out that way.

Could you show me, dear...something I've not
seen? Something infinitely interesting.-
-'Echo', Incubus

-Chapter One: Gaz-Restitution-

What I wouldn't give for one of Zim's old hover-disks. Small as he is, when unconscious he's still dead weight, which isn't light. And the several times we've had to take to the ventilation ducts to avoid people haven't made him any easier to carry.

The door out of this hell-hole is a welcome sight. GIR skips ahead of me, laughing, and pushes it open...only to reveal a downpour.

Funny. The forecast didn't call for rain.

The water's now pounding on the overhang above me. I can't believe that didn't carry through the vents. Through the gray sheets I can barely make out the car parked in the lot across from us, nestled below the neighboring building, a much darker black against the shadows. A short distance. Assuming you don't mind a little water.

I shift Zim's weight in my arms, enough to free up my right and slip my backpack off. My movements are awkward as I fumble around in the bag. GIR stops dancing in the rain long enough to come investigate, gets bored, and runs back out to catch the giant drops in his mouth. Despite the huge grin he's strangely silent. Apparently he knows how important these last few moments are.

My searching fingers finally wrap around the small plastic tarp I brought for just such an occasion. As I pull it out the slight form in my arms squirms feebly, and I look down to wide red eyes. Zim's awake and staring at the rain. His breathing's sped up, and he seems transfixed by the sight. His lips move for a moment, as if he wants to say something but his brain hasn't okayed it yet.

I toss the pack back on my shoulders, and his antennae flatten against his head, defensive. He manages to tear his gaze from the water to meet my eye. I try to make my voice reassuring, calming. "Zim, it's okay, I've got something to protect you."

He seems to not understand at first, but I pull the tarp into his view and his rigid muscles relax marginally. I call the little robot over as I wrap Zim in the plastic as best I can. "GIR, I've got a job for you."

Cyan eyes flash red. "Yes, my master!"

I dig into my pockets to pull out my keys, and tap the button to unlock the car. "I just need you to go open the front door. Go that?" I point at the SUV, and comprehension dawns quickly on his face. With a hurried affirmative he runs off. Silver glints in the shadows for an instant.

"You ready, Zim?" I wait for an answer, but his suddenly slack muscles tell me he's out again. That's fine, just makes things easier. The run to the car leaves me soaked. I lay him on the front seat, close the door, and hurry to the driver's side. Pulling a towel out of my backpack, I toss the bag to the floor on the passenger side, dry myself off, then hand the towel to GIR in the back seat. He squeals and pretends to hide from it on the floorboard.

With deliberate movements I pull the tarp off of Zim, careful not to let any stray drops hit him. He is indeed unconscious, antennae hanging over his face, head resting on a shoulder. A pang seems to hit him in his sleep, his eyes squeezing tight and a low moan escaping his throat. Purple blood stands out sharply against the pale skin of his chest, in the shape of a heart.

That bitch should be grateful I'm not a vengeful person.

GIR finally decides to crawl up into the front. When I'm sure he's dry I let him sit next to Zim. They're both so small the seat almost dwarfs them. GIR buckles the seatbelt, a habit he picked up watching me. "One more job, GIR. I need you to take care of your master, okay? Just make sure he doesn't get moved around too much."

"Yes, sir!" Red eyes, back to blue, then he leans against Zim with a contented sigh. A smile crosses my face, one of the first in years. Suddenly I'm feeling possessive, and protective. With more caution than usual, I start the car and pull out.

"Okay boys, time to go home."

_____

Thankfully the rain has stopped by the time we make it back to the house. GIR hops out when I open the passenger side, and runs to unlock the front door. I grab the blanket and backpack off the car's floorboard, leave the tarp, and lift Zim out of the seat gently. GIR's turning on some of the house lights, and flips the switch for the porchlight. A slick purple wetness on the front seat reflects the faint glow as I close the car door.

I start upstairs, think better of it, and lay Zim down on the couch in the living room. To distract GIR I put in a DVD, The Scary Monkey Show: All Time Best Growls. A quick trip to the lab, and I come back with an armful of first aid gear. Zim's still out cold, but it doesn't look like a peaceful sleep. Occasionally he clenches his fists, or stirs restlessly. I wish I had something to give him, but we found out long ago that human painkillers have no effect, and never got the chance to develop anything for him.

The only obvious injury is the fresh cut on his chest. Though small, it's bleeding a lot, and as I clean it I'm idly thankful that my couch is already black. The tazer only caused temporary damage, and will have worn off fully by the time he wakes up. But his recent history is written all over him in the scars that crisscross his body. It's worse than I'd expected.

He groans in his sleep. His eyes are squeezed shut again, a line of worry creasing his brow, the corners of his mouth turned down slightly. The skin of his face is still smooth and even, untouched by their 'experiments'. Experiments my ass.

I run a hand along his forehead, smooth back his antennae and let my fingers wander down the side of his face. He leans into the touch, and relaxes by degrees until the pain has left his features. I find myself staring at him. No wonder he's suffered so much. The universe is too messed up for something that innocent to exist.

Suddenly I want to see his eyes. I always liked his eyes. Not those contacts he wore, either. His true eyes.

__________

Dib was at another Swollen Eyeball meeting that day. He had decided to remain in the organization, had continued his rants exactly as before, which guaranteed no one would listen. He'd also begun to devote more time to his other paranormal projects, which kept him busy. He was hardly around then, and more and more frequently I would get calls from Zim, asking me to come over for a while to give him advice or to help him deal with GIR.

His calls were always excuses to get me over to his house, where we would sit watching TV in companionable silence, or have video game tournaments that lasted hours and were punctuated by a great deal of boasting and teasing. His invader training translated well to gaming, and, while I always won, he did give me moments of challenge.

Neither Zim nor Dib was aware that I knew the secret. I still can't believe how naive they both were back then. When Zim called that day he didn't give me a reason or excuse, just asked me to come over. The house was dark as I walked in, and GIR was nowhere to be found. At the sound of my footsteps Zim walked in from the kitchen. His brow was furrowed slightly, and he hurried to close the door behind me. I sat on the couch while he closed the shades.

When he was satisfied he stood before me, doing his best 'deer-in-the- headlights' impersonation. "Gaz, there's something I must tell you."

Just like my brother, Zim is always more fun when he gets flustered, so I couldn't help but play with him a bit before he said what I knew he was going to say. "Zim, if you tell me you've fallen in love with me I will be forced to kill you."

His eyes got wider than I thought possible and his mouth fell open. An indignant shriek escaped his throat. "Have you the brain worms?!"

I smirked. "So, what, you don't like me? Guess there's no point in being friends then."

He gritted his teeth and started pacing the room like a caged animal. "Insufferable humans! With your mind games and deceptions-"

"Deceptions? You're one to talk, Zim."

He froze and tried to feign ignorance, laughed nervously. "Whatever do you mean?"

I crossed my arms and gave him my best 'I am master' grin. "Just tell me."

His moment of righteous anger vanished, leaving the fear behind again. He stared off into the kitchen, refusing to meet my gaze. Finally, he drew in a deep breath, and turned to me. "You are one of the only things that make this life tolerable, so I feel you deserve to know the truth. I am not what you think I am, Gaz."

Oh, did he ever set himself up for that one. "What, you mean you're not an alien?"

"No I...WHAT?" His face was a study in shock. It was all I could do to keep my laughter down to a snicker.

"I knew the first time I saw you. You didn't think you could fool me with that 'skin condition' excuse, did you?" I swear I saw a faint blush on his cheeks. He jumped when I got up and tugged on his hair. It came off, revealing smooth green skin. Two fragile antennae sprang up at the release, and twitched a few times before he reached up to scratch them. Without a word he walked into the kitchen.

He came back a moment later, and opened his eyes.

Solid red stared back at me, no whites, no lavender, no pupils at all. Just a pure bright red. They were perfect. And for the first time I really saw him, saw him for exactly what he was. Something not human, a stranger in the strangest, most fucked up land of them all. How could anyone live with being so alone?

As the seconds dragged on, fear began to heighten in his expressive gaze. I realized what he was afraid of. Rejection. He wasn't alone, not yet. Not unless me and Dib let him be.

"I like you better without your disguise."

He sighed and relief flooded his features. "So what's GIR, an alien mongoose?" With a smile he led me down to his lab. I never regretted my decision.

-On to the next chapter!