Disclaimer: I'd love to see that lawsuit, "TOEI vs. Fanfictiction writer"...
A/N: I have been out of writing practice in a while thanks to art school, so, to get myself back into the groove, I decided to take on a challenge and pound my greatest weakness: BREVITY! So, here is the story of Impmon/Beelzemon covering from just before the beginning of Digimon Tamers to just beyond the end, in fifty themed sentences from the 1sentence livejournal community (set Alpha, for those curious). Don't know how successful it was, but hey, it's forcing me to stretch a little. For those even more curious, the title was in large part inspired by an AMV by Wolfgirl44 (you can find her stuff on youtube!) for Impmon to a song called "Just One", and I thought it fit him really well, which in turn led to musings which became the initial seeds for this thing. Constructive criticism greatly appreciated!
This wasn't like being in the Digital World, was his first thought after bioemerging—he felt strange and dense, full of little pains and sharp things and soft parts, and somewhere, pounding, inside his ribs was a heart heavy with blood—he clutched his chest willing it to stop: was this what it felt like to be real?
Nothing could have prepared him for this moment—instead of night snapping into day, a golden sun rose and the sky was a glowing wash of soft violets with the stars vanishing at the edges, and in that instant, Impmon decided it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
He felt a nasty rumbling in his guts, the thick smell of people and trash coming off the pavement in waves, and he had no idea where he was, but today was the day he'd find his Tamers, he knew it.
Okay, so the biggish ones that bothered to notice him seemed either confused or frightened of him—frightened of him?—and the little ones either wanted to pull his tail or ears, and no one seemed to know or care what a Tamer even was and how did this world even work?
When he finally did find them—or was it they who found him?—they seemed to understand who and what he was without too many words; simply embracing him with huge smiles and laughs, until Ai shared a piece of candy with him and not Mako, and after that the only thing Impmon really remembered was shrill yelling and how the melty chocolate had turned bitter in his mouth.
He wasn't sure how else to describe it, this feeling of nausea that gripped him with hot sticky claws when he approached home after wasting a day avoiding the constant fighting, the frustration that built up right behind his eyes when they didn't seem to understand that he had needs and feelings too—they were too little, too young—and worst, the niggling little guilt he felt for not wanting his Tamers to touch him anymore.
One day he decided to take a break and not come home for a night, but the day turned into a week and every time he thought of home it made him clench his fists and eyes water and by the time the moon turned full he finally began to wonder—what is left for me now?
Impmon could barely make out the other Digimon's form in the rain, but it didn't matter, he was full of rage and energy and frustration he'd fight just about anyone—it was what Digimon did it was what he was made for and he would Digivolve without his stupid little—but the other's initial counterattack slammed him into a brick wall and opened up a long wound in his back so that the rainwater seeped in and made it sting.
After not eating for almost two days, Impmon finally grew a spine and stole a little box from some loser in the park that had rice, egg, pickles and some half-eaten fish and—Impmon's eyes narrowed briefly as he picked up the little chocolate cookie that had been nestled between the egg and the fish before snorting and tossing it to the ground, deciding he was no longer hungry.
There was something about Calumon that made his fur feel like it was getting rubbed the wrong way, a deep, instinctual disgust that boiled in the pit on his stomach like hot tar that made him want to avoid him at all costs and shred him to pieces at the same time—he was wrong, what Digimon didn't have the instinct to fight, "Not so cute when you're tumblin' like a sack of potatoes, are you, fat face?"
It was not the reason why he staked out a very specific tree in the park or why he hitched a ride on that school bus to the campsite despite clinging like a doofus to the stinky axely parts just under the fender for three hours, and there was no way in hell it was the reason for his nighttime visits to Guilmon to eat the home-made bread his Tamer had given him out of love—it was not.
One thing he could never figure out was why Renamon assumed a strange flirty persona in battle—like she thought she was hot stuff or something—but when he saw her up close for the first time on those telephone wires, she reminded him of the dawn, all soft goldy yellow and dusk purple.
It was disgusting, just like old blood or sniffly stinky dogs or smeared chocolate, seeing those nasty humans holding hands, looking at each other all googly-eyed and giggly made him feel sick and empty and violent, but he ended up just hurling little exploding fireballs and barking out harsh laughter at their terrified faces, as if lapping up their stupid happy feelings would assuage his own.
It never occurred to him that anyone would even want to follow him back to his old home, but the second he realized that someone had—fox face!—he flinched, a low growl in his throat as an animal terror seemed to grab him, telling him, someone saw that, and you've nowhere to hide.
She snuck up on him like a silent breeze what felt like constantly—nosy fox lady, where did she get off stalking him?—but as much noise as he made about it, he would be kidding himself if he wasn't sorry to see her go, because the lonely silence afterwards always yawned wide and hungry like it was going to eat him or something.
The day Renamon discovered Impmon knew their names—those of the Tamers, their partners, and even their friends—she realized that the lonely little Digimon didn't believe a single thing he said about any of them.
For the first time in his life, he was looking down on the world instead of looking up, he could feel the power surging through these new long limbs, the power in his grip as he steered the Behemoth through the desolate canyon, searching for someone, anyone to fight and convincing himself that this was exactly what he wanted.
Oh, Beelzemon would keep his promise, but Chatsuramon and his Sovereign asked for that special kind of loyalty—and given what the Dog Deva knew, he'd have to be a fool to think that Beelzemon hadn't locked that part of himself away forever.
Back in another life, he used to lay on his back and stare up at the pulsing orb that was the Real World hanging in a digital sky, sometimes closing one eye and reaching out as if to crush it—a solemn promise to himself he'd achieve his goal—and in the real world he'd done it with the moon: but now, having been both there and back and having achieved that power, he struck out blindly with his fists now, looking to crush anything he could touch.
This was perfectly normal, this need to fight and get stronger—it was the basic need of all Digimon—so surely now this feeling of burning coals churning around in his stomach and sending fire to his limbs, this intense urge to shred and load and load and load was all the strong guys felt, right?
It only took her a second of scrutiny to see Impmon inside the creature he had become, all claws, steel and spikes and armor—there was no other way for all that impotent frustration, rage and hurt to manifest itself.
This is the price of his power: five Digi-pets, six human brats (whom he played in the water with, who'd saved his life once)—he is staring down the barrels of his guns and grins; is a business transaction, and one he plans to honor.
Gallantmon was so bright he hurt to look at, a spectral fire flaring off the edges of that shining armor and every step rang out like thunder and just for a moment, Beelzemon's claws twitched and something inside him quailed in fear.
He screamed at Gallantmon to go ahead and finish him, for they both knew he deserved death in more ways than one and at least it would be quick, but Jeri's plea was faster and Beelzemon learned that grace was cold metal resting tense but harmless against his side.
When he first appeared in the real world, he found blood disgusting, all sticky and tacky and tasting like copper, but staggering around in the aftermath of the fight, Beelzemon often found himself looking at his claws and thinking he could see red—but no, that can't be right, because at least blood washes off.
Neither of them really understood how it worked, this weird connection that seemed to tie them together like a freaking fishing line no matter where in the worlds they were, so it wasn't so surprising that she found him half-dead and desolate in the desert—it was that despite everything, she came for him anyway.
The frame of the picture was starting to cut into his hands as he stood out here on the sidewalk like a schmuck asking random people to read the note for him, his feet hurt and he was getting hungry, but he didn't care how long he had to be out here as long as it meant he could find his Tamers.
The little Digimon's face, though alien, was clearly given to all kinds of smiles, but after the man read the note for it, it had grinned with such genuine joy that its face seemed to fill right back up, as though it hadn't done so for a very long time.
He felt lighter than air, like he was about to spin into nothingness when he saw them again, toddling along walking that stupid dog—for the first time in so long it hurt to think about—and now he was finally free to make amends.
It was something Yamaki found it hard to admit even to himself, but the partner Digimon all had a strange aura of something childlike clinging to them, a purity of thought and deed that made him wonder how he could have ever thought them nothing more than programs, but he couldn't help but pick out the little purple one called Impmon—something about those defiant eyes, quick mouth and springy movement, all angles and darkness told him that this one, unlike the others, was not an innocent.
Calumon had always thought of Impmon as dark—he had fur the color of egglplant and his bandanda reminded him of icky blood and he didn't like to be reminded of that at all—but when he digivolved in front of him to save Jeri, for a blink, he was bright and then huge, like a star exploding into existence.
He didn't know of it was instinct or destiny and in that second he didn't care—Leomon's power was sizzling and bright, alien to his makeup like it was frying his data from the inside out—because it was right and just and whatever the hell it had to be in order to save this girl.
The skin of his horrible outstretched hand—which almost as long as Jeri was tall-was dark and tough like an old tire, each finger thick with sinew so to crush and maim was sheathed by heavy gunmetal claws: this was a hand capable of only destruction and yet, on the edge of hearing —"I'm trying to help you, please!"
He felt the D-Reaper's attack a heartbeat before it struck, a tiny kiss of static electricity along his back and the next instant there were a million shards of death embedded in his spine.
He was falling out of the sky like a freaking shooting star, complete with data coming off of him in streams heading for certain doom and it's with the last of his consciousness he remembers that he's done this twice, and both times he utterly deserved it.
The elevator ride after the battle was full of awkward, frustrated silence punctuated by Impmon's occasional involuntary groans of pain muffled by Renamon's fur until Rika decided she had enough and started humming an old lullaby she sort of remembered—making it up where her memory failed and blithely ignoring the looks of surprised sadness on the people around her.
Renamon was on her way to the washroom when she ran into Guilmon, who asked her worriedly about the little spots of blood matting the fur on her chest, "It's not mine."
Even after three days of rest hooked up to a life support system Shibumi cannibalized together in a few hours, the only change in the little purple Digimon was that he seemed to be getting even weaker, and with the end of the world swarming thick and red over Tokyo and the fate of the world in the hands of a bunch of twelve year olds, there was neither the time nor the resources for Janyu to do anything but find out if the Digimon had a Tamer and let them know.
He was going to die here, in the shadow of his final failure in the back of this bus that smelled old fast food wrappers and cheap air freshener, but instead of getting shredded bit by bit by the D-Reaper, he'd die in the arms of his Tamers—that was a gift, and more than a guy like him could ask for.
For a split second, he thought he'd died—the light was bright and soft, like angel feathers, but he didn't want to go just yet…
His breath hitched in his throat as the glow simmered down, revealing a D-Power, pearly white and hazard violet—he was suddenly hyperaware of the ephemeral threads in his soul that tied him and his Tamers together and the moment Ai's tiny hand closed over its still warm surface a shared energy lit him up from the inside out: this is how it was finally meant to be.
Jeri had forgiven and that was that, but even after months of desperation and separation and then the later tears and hugs upon reunion, he still was afraid to touch her because the memory still cut too deep—but she surprised him by grabbing pulling off his right glove and holding his little three fingered claw it in her warm human hands.
"I'm their partner, it's my job to protect 'em," he tries to assure his Tamer's parents, who were watching him as if he was going to explode on the spot; the woman's knuckles had gone white as she clutched the man's hand, bunching up the fabric of his jacket, "Nothin' and no one'll touch 'em as long as I'm breathin'."
Renamon and Impmon were warming their backs against the hot roof picking out shapes in the clouds while they waited for their Tamers to get out of school, and Renamon marveled how exactly one year ago the only time they had was spent fighting for their lives and sometimes against each other.
It was during Jeri's birthday thirteenth birthday party when everyone gathered around to test out Jeri's new karaoke machine (Guilmon and Terriermon were the worst singers in Shinjuku) that Impmon for the first time found himself laughing so hard that he was crying.
"That's the most disgustin' thing I've ever heard," Impmon didn't care what they'd all been through together—he did not know Kazu and Kenta very well, but after this, he decided the only way he'd like them is if they were running away from him with their butts on fire, "DIGIMON DON'T WORK THAT WAY, SHEESH!"
Sometimes on late nights when they'd curl up on the couch to watch a movie too full of graham crackers and apple juice to move and he was dozing off halfway through, Ai and Makoto would sometimes run their soft little hands up and down his ears, taking special note of each and every little rip and scar.
The first time he became Beelzemon in front of his Tamers, reached out to shield them from the danger and in doing so brushed Mako's shoulder with the palm of his hand—the little boy's skin was the dermalogical equivalent of a tissue paper and they had bones like toothpicks and he knew that one misstep on his part could conclusively prove how fragile they were.
How they got from yeah, she's all right to Impmon and Renamon sitting in a tree was utterly beyond him for two reasons: they both sat in trees all the freakin' time, and if they were suggesting something else, well, he didn't figure it were worth correcting something so stupidly wrong!
What felt like an eternity of drifting like a Dust Packet through both worlds and feeling like he belonged nowhere left Impmon a lot of time to think about what home would actually look like: home was a small shared bedroom on a stuffy summer night with the window wide open, seven and a half crayon drawings and a burn mark on the wall, and him and Ai, curled up on her bed with his head resting over her heart.