Warnings: Cursing, violence in flashbacks.
Chapter Playlist: "Never Gonna Be Alone" by Nickelback; "It's Been Awhile" by Staind; "Cut" by Plumb
Part Two: Sanctuary
It took a few seconds for Jeri to find her voice, and when she spoke so quietly she almost didn't recognize it as herself. "Beelzebumon?"
The demon Digimon blinked and turned his bright green gaze to her, blinked again, and suddenly widened with realization. "Jeri? S'that you?"
Jeri let out a breath in relief. Smiling she replied, "Yes, it's me."
She didn't back away when the Demon Lord approached her rather quickly, probably due to the adrenaline still roaring through his blood, stopping just a few feet from her. His emerald eyes swept across her figure, and even though she knew he was checking to make sure she was alright and that those men hadn't injured her, that didn't stop the blush that threatened to play across her cheeks. "You okay? Did they hurt--?"
"No, no, I'm fine. All they did was just scare me, that's all." She said quickly when he glared back at the men, looking like an animal ready for a second pounce. "Thanks for the help. Those guys probably would've sliced me up like a turkey on Thanksgiving if you hadn't showed up."
He turned back to her. "You sure?"
She nodded, which seemed to satisfy him as he gave a grunt.
"C'mon, let's get outta here," he said as he turned in the direction of the alleyway's opening, crooking a clawed finger for her to follow. With a grateful smile she walked beside him, the sharp sound of her high heels on concrete a definite contrast to the deep thuds coming from Beelzebumon's boots as they made their way out of the alley.
"Why're ya even out here, alone in the middle of the night and all dressed up like that?" he asked curiously as he tilted his head to look at her.
"I was on my way home." When the Demon Lord took on a confused expression, she continued, "From the prom, that is."
He paused for a second, and asked, "Aren't the others supposed t' be with ya?"
"They're still at the school. Takato called and said that he was sick, so I decided to head home." She couldn't stifle the disappointment and melancholy as she stated the facts.
Beelzebumon frowned. "Still, ya could've at least gotten one of the others to give ya a lift back."
Jeri shook her head, and the Demon Lord couldn't help but become momentarily hypnotized by how her curls danced with the movement. Luckily the girl didn't notice this. "No, I didn't want to ruin their fun."
"I kinda doubt any of 'em would put their fun before ya. I know I wouldn't." He said truthfully, though was unaware at how Jeri's eyes widened slightly and gave a small smile as that treacherous red tint once again came back with a vengeance to stain her cheeks.
To hopefully distract herself from how she was reacting so strangely she asked, "So, what're you doing out here? Are Ai and Mako okay?"
Beelzebumon nodded. He hooked his thumbs into his belts in a relaxed manner and replied, "Oh yea, they're fine. Sleepin' right now. Jus' decided to take off for a few minutes. Glad I did, there's no tellin' what those guys woulda done to ya."
Jeri smiled. "Yea, well, I'm really glad you showed up, too."
When Beelzebumon stopped she did too. He held out a hand with a grin and said, "C'mon, I'll fly ya home."
Jeri blinked a few times, glancing from his hand to his face. His grin never wavered until she replied uneasily, "Um, well…"
He cocked his head to the side curiously. There was no denying that the Demon Lord looked cute doing that. "What's up?"
Glancing down, the thumb and forefinger of her right hand pinched the material of her dress and rotated in small circles in a nervous habit. She never did like lying, but then again she never liked heights either. A small shred of pride didn't want to let the Demon Lord know that. "You did say so yourself that I'm in a dress."
The hand he had held out for her found its way to the back of his neck in a sheepish way. "Oh, yea…didn't even think 'bout that." Great job, genius!
"In that case, I'll walk with ya."
Jeri glanced up in surprise. "You sure? It's not that far away, I ca—"
"Look, kid, I'm not gonna leave ya out here alone for some other pack of dogs to sniff out." He nodded towards the alleyway they just walked out of. She really wasn't surprised that none of the men he'd beaten down hadn't regained consciousness and walked out of there yet. She could say the same thing a few days from now, as a matter of fact.
"You sure?" she repeated.
"Yea, s'no problem. Besides, I think takin' a walk with a pretty lady is better than flyin' 'round alone."
When he spotted the bright blush swamping her cheeks his inner voice immediately took a 180 degree turn and shouted, Ha! Guess you're not so retarded after all! Wait…hang on a sec you dipshit, this is Jeri you're flirting with! J-E-R-I! What the fuck are ya thinkin'?!
His heart stopped and the blood nearly took a one way ticket out of his face when the realization of what exactly he was doing hit him, though he immediately stifled the momentary horror by concluding that he was merely complimenting her looks. Besides, any male, Digimon or human, couldn't have been in their right mind not to be affected by it somehow.
"Okay. And I'm sure strolling with someone as sweet as you is ten times better than walking around alone." She countered with a light smile as she went ahead and started down the street. Luckily she didn't look back or else she would've noticed how Beelzebumon was frozen for a few seconds, his wide emerald eyes watching her go before reality slapped him and got him moving again.
Their walk was, for the most part, silent. But it wasn't an awkward silence between the two old friends, thankfully; instead it was comfortable more than anything.
Speaking of comfortable, Jeri's feet were killing her! She was suddenly regretful of the choice she made in footwear when Rika's mom took them both shopping last month. The amber-gold high heels were beautiful, but obviously weren't designed for long distance walks. On top of it all Jeri had a sneaking suspicion that Beelzebumon was catching onto her exaggeration of her house being 'not too far away,' but he didn't say anything about it.
Nevertheless, she didn't ask to stop and take a break or anything along those lines. It was bad enough that Beelzebumon beat down those guys back in the alley, but now he was wasting his time escorting a young woman who wasn't able to protect herself back home.
And then her knee, out of protest, decided to give out on her mid-stride.
Yet before she could slam into the concrete a hand shot out and caught her forearm. Beelzebumon easily pulled her back up to her feet, and for a split second it amazed Jeri how that same hand could throw grown men around like ragdolls, claw through any opponent as effortlessly as a blade through hot butter, and be so gentle when dealing with Ai and Mako.
"Geez, kid. If ya needed a break, say somethin'." He growled, his hand still wrapped around her arm. Before she could say anything he led her over to a wooden bench set up on the sidewalk a good thirty feet away.
She tried to tug her arm out of his grip. "No, it's okay, I'm fine." When he stopped to look over his shoulder with a mild glare that told her flat out he knew she was lying through her teeth, she blurted out, "Really!"
Beelzebumon gave a snort that told her he didn't believe a word she said, but that didn't stop her.
"Beelzebumon, I'm alri—"
"Kid, ya suck at lyin', so give it up."
"I'm not lying!"
"Yea, ya are. Now get over here and sit for a sec."
The two stared each other down for a minute or two before Jeri gave a small sigh and did as he said. Once she sat down on one side he plopped down on the other, his thumbs hooked in his belts and his wings spread out behind him. The left one, the one that was on Jeri's side, was bent at a weird angle so it wouldn't brush up against her.
That can't be comfortable, she thought.
Banishing the nervous side of her psyche she reached over and lightly pinched a feather. Beelzebumon glanced over at her with a question in his eyes and she answered it with a smile and a gentle tug on the feather in her grip. He gave a one shouldered shrug and she let go of the feather as he extended the wing out to where it hung in front of Jeri. Jeri, wrapped up in her own curiosity and awe, ran her fingertips over the raven-black feathers gently. Beelzebumon watched her for a moment before closing his eyes and tilting his head as he relaxed to the feeling of his wings being massaged.
Growing braver with every second, though still careful in case she stumbled across a boundary Beelzebumon had set up, she started running her fingers through the feathers as though they were strands of hair. Their texture was surprisingly smoother than an average bird's, but every once in a while Jeri's skin would meet an area in the wing that had been damaged or singed by a battle with another Digimon. But those spots were rather rare considering how much of the wing her fingertips had already journeyed across. That alone was a testimony to how strong Beelzebumon was and how much damage he could endure after five years of fighting Digimon and, when the circumstance arose, humans as well.
"What's it like?" Jeri asked after a few seconds, and Beelzebumon looked over at her.
"What's what like?"
"Flying. What's it like?"
Judging from the way Beelzebumon's eyes traveled over to the left and he gave a thoughtful grunt, she guessed no one had asked him that before. Good, she thought with a triumphant smile. She always liked catching people off guard like that, which is why she used her crazy sock puppet for her crazy habit-hobby.
"Well, s'nice," he said in a sheepish way after a few seconds, "And ya get that feelin' that there's nothin' that can stop you. There's nothin' like it, really."
Jeri nodded, not understanding what that truly felt like but getting the idea behind it. A few more minutes passed and a thought hit Jeri, one that was crazy and downright insane but, the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to follow through with it.
So without even bothering to think it through because she knew the logical side of her would talk her spontaneous side out of it, she turned to the demon Digimon next to her and asked, "Hey, Beelzebumon?"
"Could you do me a favor?"
"Yea, sure. Anythin'."
She took in a little more of a breath than she needed to and asked, "Would you dance with me?"
The Demon Lord spent a few times blinking owlishly at her, which only shot her nervousness up to the moon hanging above them. "…Say what?" he finally asked, not sure if he heard her right.
"Would you mind dancing with me? Just for a little while?" she asked again, a little bolder this time, but careful not to come across as demanding.
"Er…" he croaked, though he cleared his throat and tried again, "I think you'd be better off tryin' that with someone who actually knows how."
"Oh, okay." Jeri replied, and actually surprised herself at how dejected she felt at his answer. It must have been written all over her face, which it was, because the sight of her eyes downcast and her glossed lips turned down in the slightest of frowns in the expression of a kicked puppy was all it took for Beelzebumon to cave in.
"Unless, of course," Jeri turned to him with a hopeful look as he spoke, "ya don't mind, y'know…showin' me how?" he finished with a somewhat nervous shrug as the rational side of him screamed at him 'what the hell are you doing?!'
A split second was all it took for Jeri's face to brighten and give him a huge smile. "Okay! Let's go in the grass, these shoes are going to kill my feet," she said as she stood from the bench and went around it towards the stairs leading up to the grassy patches of the park.
Beelzebumon watched her go for a second before following, refraining from letting out a nervous breath and ruffling his wings. Which didn't make any sense to him, after all he'd fought against the D-Reaper, a monster that might as well have been a beast from hell itself, so why was he suddenly nervous about dancing with an old friend?
Maybe it's because she's supposed to hate you.
Mentally Beelzebumon killed the little bastard in his head that sparked a seed of doubt in his heart, though he couldn't help but feel that in some way it was right.
"Over here!" Jeri called softly to his left, and he resisted the urge to slap himself as he realized he was about to blow right past her.
"No tango, or any crazy stuff, right?" he said quickly before she could rope him into doing something like that as he approached.
Jeri gave an amused giggle as she turned to where she stood before him. "No tango, or any crazy stuff."
Judging from the way his right eye moved, she guessed he'd raised an eyebrow somewhere underneath his helmet, indicating he was still just a wee bit suspicious of this whole thing. "You sure pineapple-head or fox-face didn't set up some kinda secret camera 'round here?"
She couldn't help but laugh lightly at that. "I'm sure. Now, the way they do it at the prom is like this." For a split second her brain let the information on just who she was planning on dancing with slip as she reached out and took his hands in hers, though froze at the feel of his metallic claws brushing against her skin. For a few moments she was silent, which had frozen Beelzebumon as well as he watched her worriedly. Her gaze went to his right hand and she smoothed her thumb over his palm, somewhat amazed that she was holding the same hand that cleaved straight through—
"Kid? You alright?" Beelzebumon asked gently, knowing what she was thinking about as a glazed look tried to come across her eyes, but he snapped her out of it for his own selfish reasoning of not wanting to see her come even close to the state he remembered her in while she was nestled in the belly of the D-Reaper.
Jeri blinked a few times, her eyes clearing, and glanced up at Beelzebumon like he'd woken her from a dream. "What?"
"You okay? Kinda spaced out on me there for a sec."
"Oh, yea, I'm fine." She said a little too quickly, shaking her head to clear her thoughts.
He knew that, in some ways, she was lying to him, but he didn't dig into it. He didn't have a right to.
But his concern was washed away a bit by the strange sense of nervousness that came over him as Jeri placed his hands a few inches above her hips and reached up to place her own at his collarbone, her body pressed to his. He remembered seeing other people in this position in the past during his days of raising all immortal hell in this same park as Impmon, and he remembered watching with curiosity as they would stay locked like this before either the girl or the guy came up or leaned down to brush their lips over—
Clenching his jaw in an attempt to chase those thoughts away before they could finish forming in his mind, he quickly realized that Jeri wasn't helping at all as she turned her head to rest her cheek against his chest and gave a small sigh, her body relaxing and leaning against his just a little more. Then she started to sway to non-existent music, save for the crickets, the occasional rustle of leaves, and passing cars, and it took a few moments for Beelzebumon to get into her rhythm but he picked it up quickly.
Time unraveled to the point where it no longer mattered to the two. Neither of them cared if someone were to stumble into the area and discover them. All that did matter was the moment they were sharing and the other they were holding.
But the time they spent with one another was more than enough time for the seed of doubt to bloom into a raging wildfire in his heart.
While Jeri was calm about it all, the same couldn't be said for Beelzebumon. If the girl were to look up at him at that second, she would see his pale features set in a tense expression while his green eyes reflected the storm raging inside of him. Rage directed at himself shook his center like the thunder. Rain symbolized the sadness and guilt he felt for the girl, flooding his senses and his judgment.
—"I'll keep loading data until no one can stop me!" The garnet-eyed demon yelled to the sky as the last of the data was absorbed into his being, and once the last piece of it fell into him he followed up his promise to destiny by screaming, "No one…no one!"—
His jaw started to ache as he clenched it tight, his eyes narrowing at the dark shadows surrounding them in a mixture of disgust and rage. How could he do something like that? How could anyone be so damned heartless to kill another being for something as petty as power?
He didn't flinch when the metallic lance missed its mark and dove into the desert ground behind him.
—"I don't get it…why're you protecting me?"—
He deserved to die. He deserved whatever the golden-eyed knight wanted to dish out at him. Whether he wanted to rip him apart using his lance, annihilate him using the energy blast from the shield, whatever it took for him to die. For his being to disappear just like Leomon's.
At that point, he wanted to die.
—"…I don't want anyone to die because of me."
But she wouldn't let that happen. She couldn't let go of him. Even when she had every right to hate every inch of his being, had every right to wish death and ill will upon him, she still let him walk away without any damage inflicted upon him while her world was ripped apart by him.
Even to this day, four years later, he still couldn't bring himself to understand her reasoning, to understand why she protected him like that. He never got the guts to ask.
Jeri nearly squeaked as Beelzebumon's grip on her tightened suddenly, but she forced herself to stay calm (as she wasn't so oblivious to assume something wasn't going to come up in the situation regarding the past) as she asked gently, "Beelzebumon? You okay?"
Her voice shattered his trance and broke the glare he was directing at nothing. Shaking his head in order to clear it he muttered, "Huh? What'd you say?"
"Is something wrong?" she asked again.
Besides the fact that I'm dancin' with a girl who should be hatin' my guts, nah, it's all good.
"No, what made ya ask that?"
"You're really tense," she answered carefully.
He wasn't aware of it, but now that she pointed it out, he was now. He forced his muscles to relax as he replied, "Oh. Nah, everything's fine."
When she felt him relax she lifted her cheek off his chest and met his gaze. "You sure?"
He gave her a reassuring smirk and said, "Yea, I'm sure."
Not exactly satisfied with an answer she knew was something of a lie, she decided not to pry into it and instead wait for him to come out with it once he knew he was ready for whatever it was.
Before she knew just what it was she was about to say, she came right out and said quietly, "I still have nightmares. About the D-Reaper."
She wasn't surprised when silence followed, meaning that Beelzebumon either didn't know what to say to that or just didn't have anything to say. Call it intuition, but she had a feeling that he was blaming himself for her time being a captive of the D-Reaper just as she sometimes still blamed herself for the death of Leomon. His silence didn't surprise her one bit.
Letting out a slow sigh she continued, "It's only bits and pieces so far, with me being trapped inside of it the majority of the time. The whole time I see what it sees—Takato, Rika, Henry, you, everyone fighting it, risking their lives and giving their all to save me, even though I was the reason for the problem in the first place."
Beelzebumon opened his mouth to say something about her statement not being true, but when she brought her head from his chest to meet his gaze, the look in her eyes told him that the best thing he could do right now would be to shut up and listen. Obviously these were things she hadn't told anyone else, even Takato and her own father, and obviously she saw something in him that made her feel safe enough to tell him instead of her other loved ones. Whatever the hell that something could possibly be was beyond him.
Why did she choose him?
"But the weird thing is, I wake up, scared and shaking, but I never cry, as crazy as that sounds. At least," she looked away with an ashamed expression crossing over her face, continuing softly, "except for one part of it. That's the only time I've cried over the nightmares."
Beelzebumon didn't hesitate in bringing a hand up to hook a claw under her chin, gently forcing her to face him. He honestly wasn't surprised to see that her eyes were attempting to fill. For a split second the image of her standing in the middle of the Kernel Sphere flashed across his eyes.
You're not Leomon.
"What's it about?" he asked in concern.
Jeri looked down again, and Beelzebumon let his hand fall, no longer attempting to try and compel her into maintaining eye contact with him, despite how it was killing him to want to know what tore at her.
—"Jeri, you have to listen to me!" That voice tore through the thick fog the D-Reaper had her trapped in, awakening a side of her that she had put to rest. "Beelzebumon's bent on saving you, he's going to keep trying no matter what, so please, you have to let him help you!"
"Beelzebumon…he really wants…to save me?
But I don't understand…"
Her amber eyes squeezed shut as soon as the hot prickling sensation arose behind them. Beelzebumon was statue still when she started to shake, caught between tightening the embrace he had on her or pulling away…either way, he wasn't sure which one had a higher risk of scaring or breaking her in her current state, so he decided on nothing for the moment. He stayed still and waited for her to figure things out on her own.
—"Fist of the Beast King!" Fire erupted all around the crystalline cage she was trapped in, followed by a warm gust of wind that bit at her face. The air was so still around her for so long because of the Kernel Sphere the sensation somewhat shocked her.
That attack…no, it couldn't be…
And he wasn't. The one reaching for her was the one who haunted her just as badly as the one she grieved for. Despite how he pleaded for her to take his hand, to get her away from the monstrosity that had her trapped, she couldn't. She just couldn't.
"You're not Leomon."
As soon as she felt the floodgates shatter and the first tear decided to fall, she didn't allow the logical side of her to stop herself from turning back to face Beelzebumon, whose own eyes widened at the sight of the storm in her amber eyes and the tear falling from her cheek.
His scream tore at her just as easily as the blades in his back. She swore the Kernel Sphere shook from the scream, quaking her physical form right along with her center.
And she could swear she heard her name leave his lips as he fell trailed by an apology—
…along with a desire for a second chance.
And in the back of her mind, she knew that she was the only one who could give him that chance.
And just like before, all it took was her words to shatter his world.
"You. It's you."
Author's Note: Holy…shit…this part took so freaking long to write. I hope you guys didn't notice the parts where I actually fought with it, but I won! And I'm sorry for ending it here for now (hahaha suckers!) but I figured it worked either way. But anyway the flashback bits were probably the most enjoyable part of writing this chapter. It was fun!
To those who reviewed anonymously:
Anonymous: Two words...YOU'RE WELCOME!
Yatsirch: First off, what the heck does your name mean? Sounds German or something but anyway, thanks for the review, I appreciate it! And yus, the aaaaaanggggst is goooooddd. Goes great with dark chocolate. And about Juri's dad, I will admit I had just a little spark of dislike for the dude, but then I saw how he's just a dad who doesn't really know how to be a dad. I find that adorable. Hahaha I thought I was the only one who saw Beelzebumon as a fandom bicycle! It's his personality. It goes great with everyone and everything!