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Political Science

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Zims hands were getting tired. He felt ready to just drop his sign and book it. The bright white winter sky was blinding when stared at directly, so he opted to stare into the sea of screaming protesters instead. It was ironic how he was at a climate change rally when he was almost literally freezing his ass off. How many hours had he been struggling to stand within this angry crowd again?

“CORPORATE GREED!

WE MUST FIGHT!

POLLUTING EARTH IS NOT A RIGHT!”

The protesters around Zim, including himself, began to chant. It seemed as if things might start getting a little out of hand. The security guards in front of the Membrane Labs headquarters were being prodded and pushed, getting noticeably more and more riled up. Zim looked wearily behind him to his protest buddies, Keef and Zita, who were both bearing their own signs. Keef’s read ‘Dino’s thought they had time too!’ along with a tiny doodle of an earth, with a dinosaur next to it, and Zita’s read ‘Capitalism is the crisis!’. Zim’s was a direct jab at Membrane Labs, with a simple ‘Technology can’t save everything’.

He could see the few counter-protesters in the distance, with their shitty signs calling everyone on Zim’s side a ‘snowflake’ or ‘libtard’, some with bright red ‘make america great again’ hats, yelling at the liberal crowd. He could overhear the occasional slur or two, be it racial or otherwise, being spewed from their mouths. Zim was suddenly filled with an almost uncontrollable rage. It was at times like these that he remembered how exhilarating it was to be at these sorts of events. He felt his legs shaking beneath him, egging him on to move towards the countering side, say something provocative, have it out, do whatever it takes. With a deep breath, he grabbed Keef’s arm. “Hold onto Zita, follow me.” He said matter of factly, starting to shove his way through the crowd. He continued pushing until he reached the front, coming face to face with the conservative side. He stared with a burning glare into all of their eyes, one by one. Then he met a familiar face.

This one guy who he’d seen at practically every rally he’d been to. Donning black, seemingly greasy hair, circular glasses, a trench coat, and an expression that told you that you might be murdered in the next two seconds. Zim always felt like he looked a little crazy, like behind his eyes you could see that something was off. It made him feel uneasy every time he would notice this guy.
Then, this guy turns to look at him. Zim froze. He felt a little… frightened. He started to think. Maybe a bit too much. Then, he lost his self control. He power walked until he was face to face with this guy. He was probably almost a foot taller than him, intimidating, but that didn’t stop Zim’s adrenaline from getting the best of him. Still following the crowds rhythm, he then yelled the little slogan directly in this tall man’s face.

“CORPORATE GREED! WE MUST FIGHT! POLLUTING EARTH IS NOT A RIGHT!”

Unexpectedly, the guy smirked. Zims face turned slowly into an angry frown, awaiting a response.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” The guy said in a sly tone, like he thought he was the shit, “You think I don’t recognize you? I’ve seen you plenty of times before, you little shit. You have the fucking audacity to get in my face like that? Oh, and what the fuck does that say,” He pointed to a pin on Zim’s jean jacket. “You’re a feminist? Of fucking course you are. What else could I expect from a tiny ass, beanie wearing libtard.”

Zim felt like he was foaming at the mouth at this point. He wanted so badly to deck this motherfucker in the jaw. All he could really think to say was:

“You smell like a freshman gym class locker room.”

The guy snorted. “And you smell like pussy.”

At that exact moment, Zita threw a trashcan into the crowd, with a “FUCK YOU CORPORATE SCUM!” and started running in the opposite direction with Keef in tow. Zim gave one last fuming glance at the now obviously startled guy before running after his protest buddies. They all laughed as they ran from the yelling policemen through the bustling city streets.

Chapter Text

Dib had hit snooze on his alarm three times before he finally realized that he actually had to get up. He shot straight up in bed, suddenly noticing how freezing his dorm was. He grimaced and pulled his blanket around his shoulders. It was the first day of school after winter break, and he felt as if he hadn’t had a break at all. With a sigh, he stood up, and almost jumped when his feet hit the cold hard floor. He made a mental note to buy a carpet.

Although he didn’t realize it, he completely lucked out by getting a single person dorm. Dib’s father was THE Professor Membrane, the most prolific scientific genius of our time, so, of course, he always wanted the absolute best for his son. He paid extra to get Dib a single person dorm, bought him a semi-expensive car and let him get it custom painted, among other fancy things. This special treatment he received made him a little self-righteous. He felt very entitled, like he deserved every little thing he wanted. This might’ve been why he had such a bad attitude. All he really did in his freetime was lurk on the internet, searching for something to be mad about. He was on reddit during most of that time. He somehow had garnered a fair amount of karma, despite the constant controversial posts he would spew out. Judging by how many downvotes he’d get on the daily, you’d think his karma would be in the negatives. He didn’t identify as or call himself one, but he’d constantly get numerous people telling him he was an incel. He’d laugh it off, reminding himself that they were just “snowflakes”, and that their words meant nothing.

But that was the problem,

They did mean something.

You see, Dib liked to pretend that the reason that he couldn’t get a girlfriend was because he just hadn’t found the right one, and that they were all ugly, whores, sluts, and other derogatory terms he could come up with… but way deep down inside, he knew the reality was that he would never find a girl that he liked. He’d never be attracted to a woman. He knew very well that it wouldn’t happen. The only way someone could possibly find this out is by stumbling across his Pornhub history, which he’d immediately delete the moment he was done with it. To make it even harder for anyone trying to find out his little secret, he had Tor downloaded, and used it as his main browser. He had everything else, too: A paid-for VPN, three layers of tape covering his webcam, the works. A man like himself, who was very well-versed in technology would NEVER let anything get out about him. He’d narrowly avoided being doxxed multiple times, all because he stayed completely anonymous out of the fear that someone would have enough curiosity to question his sexuality.

These worries plagued his head incessantly. He was paranoid at all times, all from a situation he’d created himself. He wanted very badly to just leave behind the persona he inhabited, and become the person he was deep inside. But, all of these thoughts were pushed back by fear. Nobody could know anything. He felt that nobody he knew would accept him, mostly due to the fact that his few friendships were formed from conservative views. Another problem was that he saw himself as anti-everything-politically-correct. He didn’t really know why. Did he just want to act edgy? Did he want to believe that everyone else was wrong, just so he could be right? He tried not to question his views. That would take too much energy, and he had none to spare.

The January air bit at the back of his neck as he walked from his dorm to the Natural Science building on campus. He tread briskly, with a tinge of looking like he was about to murder someone, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his trench coat that he wore on the daily. He didn’t know why he decided to non-stop wear an article of clothing that gave people a sense of unease whenever he walked by. Maybe it made him feel powerful, or intimidating. Either way, it was a good way to assert his dominance.

As he entered the building, he felt a little overwhelmed at the amount of eyes gazing in his general direction. He took this as a sign to just stare at his feet the rest of the way to class. Sometimes, he wondered if everyone stared at him because they knew he was Professor Membrane’s son. Maybe some only thought he looked like he was, or didn’t think so at all, but judging from how everyone would whisper to the people in their circles whenever he’d appear, he suspected the former. He knew that since it was the first day, whoever his Professor ended up being would call out his last name, and reveal his identity to the entire class. He doubted that anyone wouldn’t recognize the name “Membrane”, since it was displayed on the majority’s daily technology. The thought of people coming up and asking about his father made him shudder. He decided to just brush it off and keep himself focused on the task at hand: getting to Chemistry class. It was a required course, so he didn’t choose to be there, but since Computer Science was a science, he had to resign himself to something a little out of his comfort zone.

He was cutting it pretty close, as it was almost 11:00 at this point, but the long hallways of the building perplexed him with it’s confusing twists and turns. He breathed a sigh of relief as he finally approached the correct room number. He walked inside, avoiding eye contact, making headway for the last unoccupied table in the back corner of the room. He took a seat, pulled out his laptop and decided to zone out for the remaining minute left until class started. As his eyes scanned across the room, they stopped at the doorway just in time to see a familiar face walk through. The person stopped and looked at Dib directly in the eyes, caught like a deer in headlights. That’s when he realized.

‘Oh god. I told that kid they smelled like pussy a week ago.’

They were of short stature, donning a faded pink beanie and a green flannel slightly peeking out from underneath their overly decorated jean jacket. This was the same kid who had screamed a climate change protest slogan directly in his face a week prior. He couldn’t shake the feeling of intimidation, even though he was probably a foot taller than this kid. Just then, almost as fast as they stormed through the door, the kid made a bee-line for Dib. He wasn’t sure of what was to come. All he knew was that whoever this kid was, they were a liberal, and extremely pissed off.

“Who the fuck are you? Are you, like, stalking me or some shit!?” This kid whisper-screamed as they approached Dib’s table. Dib was flabbergasted by this accusation. “What? I could ask the same thing to you! What are you even doing here, this is a Chemistry class… shouldn’t you be in the art building?” Dib said, starting to chuckle at the end of his sentence. Now, this kid was FUMING. But, before they could make a comeback, they heard the door slam shut.

“YOU! BACK THERE! SIT DOWN.” said the Professor, who had seemingly woken up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. The kid pointed to themselves as if to say “Me?”, and the professor nodded slowly. Dib suddenly realized way too late that the seat next to him was the only one open. The kid looked at him with wide eyes, and sat down begrudgingly. Their leg started shaking almost immediately once they were settled, and the table was shaking along with the motion. Dib sighed very quietly, and leaned far back in his seat. The kid pulled out a laptop, and opened it to the login screen, all while Dib sat watching. “Zim? That’s your name?” he said in an amused tone as he read the name above where the kid was typing a password. The kid stopped and turned back to him, still looking extremely pissed. “Yes. My name is Zim,” they turned back to their laptop. “Now tell me yours, I want this to be fair.” they continued. Dib snorted. “I’m Dib.”

“That’s a stupid name.”

“Jeez, you’re bold.”

Dib looked Zim up and down. “So, are you a dude? Or just a dyke?” he remarked with a sly grin. He could practically hear Zim’s eyes rolling back into their head. “First of all, you can't say that, Second of all, I'm a dude, so please refer to me as such.” Zim said matter-of-factly. He was very unamused with Dib’s distasteful teasing.

“Why can’t I?”

“What?”

“Say dyke.”

This time, Zim turned around and just about slapped Dib across the face with his laptop. He took a deep breath before responding. “It’s not your word to use.” He stated, closing his eyes to cool himself down. Dib stifled a laugh before making his retort. “You can’t just.. claim words.” He added in air quotes to emphasize. “I can say anything I want. there’s a little thing called free speech, you might wanna look it up…” He continued, placing his hands behind his head. Zim inhaled, and exhaled.

“Would you ever say the N word?” he said, expecting for the argument to be done there. Sadly, Dib’s moral compass was quite fucked up, so it was not.

“Oh boy, Would I!”

 

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

“I’m gonna say it.”

 

“DON’T.”

 

“N-”

Dib was cut off, luckily, by the professor clearing her throat very loudly to get the class’s attention. “Alright, welcome everyone, to Chemistry class. Im Professor Bitters, or just Ms. Bitters if you’d rather use that. Now, I’m going to be taking attendance. Pay attention so you don’t miss your name.” the old woman spoke with a voice that indicated that she really didn’t want to be there. She started to read out names in alphabetical order by surname, so Dib turned back to Zim. “You’re lucky she interrupted me. I would’ve said it.” he said to the obviously annoyed Zim, who was attempting to type something into his laptop. “Do you want me to deck you right now?” Zim said through gritted teeth. “That’s a hate crime. I could sue you.” Dib said, now sitting up straight to look at his own laptop.

“Jesus. Shut up.”

They sat in silence on their respective laptops, that is, until Dib’s full name was called.

“Dib Membrane?” Ms. Bitters yelled. Dib raised his hand slightly and said “Here.” in a monotone voice. Every single person in the room turned to look at him, including Zim, who looked startled from this newfound knowledge. “Nice to know we have a celebrity's relative in class.” Ms. Bitters said, before starting to call out more names. Everyone turned around to go back to what they were previously doing, except for Zim. “Surprising, who would’ve thought the most dickish person ive ever met just happens to be related to fucking Professor Membrane. That corporate, monopolistic pig... Who would’ve fucking guessed.” Zim said sarcastically. “And to think I was standing outside of the headquarters a week ago telling him to fuck off. Amazing.”

“Nice to know you hate my dad.” Dib returned, revealing his exact relation. Zim turned back to look at him, but turned to his laptop once more without a word.

“Zoe Poderoso?”

Zims head snapped up. Dib raised an eyebrow.

“I- I go by Zim.” he replied, his cheeks turning red in embarrassment. Dib felt all the puzzle pieces connect in his brain. “Huh.” Dib hummed, deciding not to cause Zim any more torture at this point. He started to feel a little bad for this guy. But, he didn’t want Zim to know that. Then his head snapped around to look at Dib, an accusatory glare appearing atop of his distressed expression. Dib just put his hands up in the air as an ‘im innocent!’ gesture. He could see tears welling in Zim’s eyes. Dib’s face softened as he decided to leave the boy be. He cursed himself for feeling bad for him. Guilty, even. He almost wanted to apologize, but he knew there was no point in doing so.

Ms. Bitters droned on for god knows how long about irrelevant topics before giving an announcement to the class. “The person sat next to you at your tables will be your lab partner for the rest of the semester. No, you can’t change seats. I'm too tired for this.” she disclosed, to which the class responded with a collective groan of disappointment.

This news especially ticked off the two rivals, seething in the very back of the classroom.

“Oh, so im stuck with you this whole semester? Great. Just great.” Zim remarked, his voice lower now than before. Dib suspected this was on purpose, since he’d just gotten dead-named in front of the whole class.

“Guess so. This isn’t any worse for you than it is for me.” Dib said, insinuating that their struggles were on an equal wavelength, even after having witnessing what he just witnessed. Zim sighed, and looked down to his hands, which were fidgeting in his lap. He opted not to respond, as it was futile to argue with Dib. A guy like him couldn’t be convinced of anything apart from his own philosophy.

They spent the remaining hours of class in a tense silence, each feeling that the other would open their mouths with a new insult to come. But nothing ever did. Zim sat, wondering what Dib really thought of him. He was wondering why he hadn’t called him a ‘tranny’ when informed of his feminine birth name. It was baffling, almost. This stuck up, conservative asshole missed the perfect opportunity to call him a slur!

It was a good thing he didn’t, though. Zim was almost at his breaking point.

He thought that since he was away at university, away from his parents, who were passive-aggressively unaccepting of his identity, he could avoid the constant “accidental” misgendering he received at home. He’d even emailed all of his future Professors about the situation, in hopes that they would refrain from using his birth name, or the wrong pronouns. It seemed to work for the most part during the first semester. But, the fact that he would be called the correct name and pronouns by his Professors didn’t stop everyone else from doing otherwise.

One thing that gave him away was his short stature. Standing at a mere five-foot, two-inches, most people either assumed that he was either a 12 year old boy, a girl with short hair, or just a lesbian. It really pissed him off. What made it worse, is that he couldn’t even begin to medically transition due to his parents. He had to rely on them for almost everything, since he barely had time to make money, let alone get a job. He did have one for the summer, but it was at a shitty, run down fast-food restaurant that severely underpaid their workers. The small amount of earnings he gained from those couple months quickly ran down once he arrived for the first semester, and he couldn’t get a job now that he was at college due to the copious amounts of work that came with majoring in a science field.

So here he was, stuck on his parent’s health insurance until he could either win the lottery, or find a job that paid way too much for way too little time. These bounds meant no gender therapist, no appointments with any doctors to assess him in order to get hormone replacement therapy, and ESPECIALLY no top surgery. These harsh realities made it very hard to find the point in doing anything, because what could he do if not be comfortable in his own skin? Looking in the mirror was like getting punched in the gut, since it was a reminder that his own body was a curse.

A painful, emotionally tolling curse that he’d never be able to be completely rid of.

So, all in all, he was holding up pretty well for being in the position that he was in. But, after being stuck back home with the same old ridicule he’d received ever since he’d came out, it would’ve been nice to have a fresh start.

‘To hell with that, I guess.’

All of a sudden, Ms. Bitters shrieked, “CLASS DISMISSED!”, and every student in the class frantically started to put away their supplies into their backpacks. Zim looked up to the clock on the wall and wondered how it had gone from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM in what felt like half an hour. In a daze, he packed away his items at an average pace. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he looked back to Dib who was starting to get up as well. When he stood completely up, Zims eyes followed his head, all the way until Dib was standing completely straight. When Dib turned around, he was smirking.

“Wow. You’re tiny.” He said matter-of-factly. Zim snapped himself out of whatever he was thinking, and turned around to walk towards the door. Dib followed in tow, but far enough behind as to not cause any more contact between the two. As much as Dib seemed to like pestering Zim, he was done for the day, or at least for the afternoon.

Once he exited the classroom, Zim took a detour down a hallway to avoid being followed out the front doors. Luckily, Dib didn’t follow him, and continued with the rest of the crowd. With a quick pace, he walked down the hall and out what looked like an emergency exit. It took him a moment to realize where he was, but once he had it figured out, he started to head towards his dorm.

——

Zim threw open the door to his dorm, to be greeted by his roommate, who was sitting at her desk next to her tiny dorm sized bed, playing some sort of sandbox video game on her laptop. Zim could hear the sweet sound of Elton John blaring through her headphones, which were turned up way too loud. She seemed to be able to sense Zim’s presence, as her head snapped around to face him as quick as lighting. She proceeded to remove her overly chunky headphones and rested them around her neck.

She uttered a “Welcome home.” to a distressed Zim, who responded with a long, pained grunt and subsequently dragged himself over to his bed just to flop down face first into the comforter. Now muffled by the bed, he started to scream.

“I fucking hate chemistry, Gaz.”

Chapter Text

“Today was a total fucking trainwreck.”

Zim groaned into the mattress, awaiting a response from his roommate, who proceeded to take a seat next to him on the tiny dorm room bed.

“Do you wanna rant about it?” she said, patting Zim’s back reassuringly. Zim hoisted himself up to a sitting position, then leaned back to rest against the wall. He brought his knees to his chest and took a deep breath.

“Basically, everything was fine until I got to chem. Then I see this fucking guy- I keep seeing this guy EVERYWHERE though! At all the protests I go to! And what do you know, the seat next to him is the only one open! He’s a complete asshole... and now I have to be his lab partner for the rest of the god damn semester? Like-” Zim remembered what Dib had asked him.

“Gaz, can I have the D word pass?”

Without a word, Gaz proceeded to hand him an index card sized laminated piece of paper with the words ‘DYKE PASS’ written across the top in large bold font. Written underneath, in tiny cursive, it read “Issued by GAZ. Good for ONE USE.”

Zim took the ‘pass’ from her. “Cool, thanks. Anyways, this guy asked me, and I quote: “Are you a dude? or just a dyke?”. He had the fucking audacity to say that in public? Does he have any idea how social interaction works? I bet he doesn't, he gives me sweaty-4-chan-lurking incel vibes...” he said, while shuddering with disgust. “OH! Right! I almost completely forgot! I got dead-named in front of the entire class! Fucking perfect!”

Zim covered his face with his hands while groaning in anger. Gaz rubbed his shoulder to attempt to comfort the poor boy.

“Sounds like today was a non-stop vibe check.” she said, using humor to attempt to relieve some of Zim’s tension. Zim stopped his emotions for a moment after realizing something.

 

“Uh… Shouldn’t you be in class?” He asked, as it was the first day, and she had written her schedule on the little shared whiteboard they put up in the dorm. He glanced at it to confirm his suspicions, and sure enough, written under Monday was “MEDIA DESIGN, 1-3PM”.

Gaz smirked. “The professor cancelled. Apparently he’s hungover.”

Zim burst into laughter. “It’s the first day! What an idiot!” He exclaimed, a smile now spread across his face. He and Gaz had become fairly close since becoming roommates. Even though Zim knew barely anything about her personal life, she was still easy to talk to, and he knew that trusting her was a good move. He’d seen how determined she could become over the tiniest of things, so he could only imagine what she would do when faced with something intense.
“I’m glad to see you can laugh this off so easily, considering the hell of a morning you had.” Gaz leaned over to give him a little side hug. Zim chuckled and smiled at her fondly. ‘God, what did I do to deserve such a good roommate…’ he thought.

“Don’t worry about these people. They’re just stupid assholes with nothing better to do. I bet this dude’s gonna end up unemployed, living in his moms basement after college. They won’t matter in three years when you’re done with this shit.” Gaz remarked. Zim playfully pushed her.

“Look at you, giving me life advice. You’re only seventeen and you have a better grip on reality than I've ever had!” Zim said. Gaz smiled in return.

“C’mon. Let’s go piss off nine-year-olds playing fortnite.” She said, standing up and holding a hand out to Zim. He took her hand, pulling himself off the bed and onto the floor.

“They always have an aneurysm when they hear your pretty female voice telling them to go suck their dad’s chode.” Zim said sarcastically, following Gaz over to her desk.

 

--------

 

Finally, when the clock hit 4:00 PM, Dib sighed in relief. He couldn’t concentrate for the life of him the entire two hours he spent sitting in calculus. He bolted up from his chair, making a mad dash towards the classroom door, sneaking out before anyone else was able to get up.

As he made his way back to his dorm, his mind continued to wander. He couldn’t stop thinking about that pansy asshole he sat next to in chemistry class. In an attempt to distract himself, he jammed his AirPods into his ears, and opened up Spotify on his phone. Listening to Neil always helped him feel better, Although the song was very fast-paced and angry, he held a stern, blank expression on his face.

He burst into his single person dorm, and defeatedly slumped down onto his bed. Even with the music still blasting at full volume, his thoughts overrode the noise. It was so fucking stupid how he couldn’t get Zim out of his head. The little shit acted so damn pretentious it was nauseating. He acted like he knew everything! Like he knew better than Dib himself!

He and Zim were on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. Trying to work with him will be like pulling teeth. What made it even worse was how he knew who Dib’s father was, and that he hated him with a passion. And now he knew that Zim was a-

He couldn’t even think about it. Thinking about it meant remembering that Zim, in fact, did not have a… dick. And, within his logic, that made thinking about him in… certain ways… not “technically” gay. It was almost the perfect scapegoat. He remembered looking down at Zim once he stood up. He was so small… so fucking tiny… Always running his mouth, spitting his illogical opinions… he wondered what it’d be like to occupy his mouth with something else...

No.

He wasn’t going to let himself get carried away. He’d just today properly introduced himself to this guy!

Snapping himself out of his inappropriate thoughts, he realized the song had changed. He glanced at his phone to read the song title. ‘Knife Fight’. It seemed very fitting.

Now, it was time for him to do what he always did when he started having gay thoughts: post something controversial on 4Chan.

He entered the /pol/ discussion board, and saw a recent post of a fellow conservative inquiring how to deal with their “libtard” family. He leaned in with a grin as he started to type a response.

‘Libertarianism is just narcissistic autism.’