A/N: Hooo boy. This is one of a series of not-quite epilogue things that keep popping up in my head. I am a firm believer in the hope that the Digimon eventually find their partners (foreshadowed by the portal found at the end). But that got me thinking about maybe what happened to the Digimon while they were in the Digital World, and what it might look like after the whole D-Reaper incident. This little thing is more or less a oneshot regarding the immediate aftermath. I hope you find it entertaining, because for some reason, it was kind of hard to write. I will probably be making more of these, little stories about their journey through the Digital World back to their partners, because they are fun, short and keep popping back into my head. Of course, my focus is usually Impmon, because this is a character I find pretty compelling in general with a lot of baggage to explore and interesting quirks, but I hope to explore the others as well in some way. :D
Impmon—no, Yaamon, now—felt like he'd stepped through a screen door, except most of his data was left behind like the lumps in oatmeal. And then they'd started to fall. At first it had been like a vacuum cleaner trying to suck them back in at a distance: slow but insistent, but as the real world disappeared in a fog of blue-white light and glittering motes of data, the speed and strength of the pull turned into the sensation of whirling down a drain, faster and faster until he could barely breathe.
He was vaguely aware of everyone screaming around him as they plummeted through a roaring tumult of wind and heat—not like the Digital World he remembered, even if the falling part was the same. Except even that wasn't the same this time.
"What is that?" Gummymon howled. The unfamiliarly shrill voice and foreign notes of panic in the other's voice Yaamon to at least try and open his eyes against the tumultuous winds. Through watery vision, they seemed to be hurtling towards some dark, jagged plain of vaguely blush rock. More specifically, towards a black shape lumbering across the said plain. It seemed to notice their yelling, because it turned its blunt muzzle to the sky.
They were close enough to see what it was now.
As if in reference to his name, MetalTyrannomon opened his mouth and unleashed a boulder sized gout of yellow-white flame. Apparently any confusion that should have been brought on by a rain of In-Training Digimon was forestalled by the potential for some easy data.
A red light suffused them all, but it wasn't the fireball. Everything happened so fast: there was the sudden sense that Yaamon was a chalk pastel drawing and he'd been erased and redrawn or something, but what he did get was that when the fireball did hit them all he had limbs enough to feel the burning.
He finally struck the ground. The shale cracked and shattered like old plaster, leaving a small crater beneath him, which allowed him to realize that he really was Impmon again, and that the fall should have hurt much, much more than it did and oh God, the end of his tail was on fire.
He gasped, inhaling shattered rocks and dust as he rolled out of the crater before he really had the chance to feel it and slapped his tail on the ground, smothering the flame. It was hard to see anything in the dust that had been stirred up in the crash, but MetalTyrannomon's eyes gleamed and plumes of fire curled around his nostrils as he stomped into visibility, cracking the ground further.
Impmon didn't have time to even consider moving when the huge Ultimate put on a burst of speed. Where Impmon's instincts may have been prepared to dodge a fireball, instead a massive wall of flesh and rough iron struck him in the face with the force of a speeding truck and sent him clanging into something metal and rounded—
"Watch out, my little friend!" Someone grabbed him by the back of the scarf and clanked noisily out of the path of a fire ball. But not quickly enough to get away completely unscathed. Both of them toppled back to the ground. "I say, this is less of a welcome home than I would have hoped for!"
Renamon's form whizzed past them, struck and skipped on the ground like a pebble. Impmon noticed out of the corner of his eye. Her arms were wrapped around a dazed and exhausted-looking Calumon, the red glow on his forehead starting to fade back into his head. She rolled to her feet, the tips of her fur blackened with soot and grime.
Guilmon was drawing most of MetalTyrannomon's fire, with Terriermon nipping at his heels, but the maddened Ultimate was tossing them around like a couple of dirty rag dolls.
"Get back," Impmon snarled, running towards their attacker. He was the only one who could do anything right now, even with that metal guy at Champion what were they going to do against an Ultimate? He hurled a tiny fireball at the back of the MetalTyrannomon's leg. To his irritation, the beast didn't even seem to notice. Impmon grit his teeth, hoping no one saw that.
He closed his eyes and tried to find the dark energy required for the Infernal Funnel, and for some reason, it was like trying to grab water. Had to be the fall or something, no biggie. He just had to get this bully's attention.
The sphere hit the MetalTyrannomon right in the eye, prompting a furious screeching roar as the Ultimate turned to face him, smacking Guilmon in the head with his tail in the process.
"Hey, ugly! That's right, I'm talkin' to you, you big stupid fossil! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" Impmon drew the sentence, dripping with arrogance and confidence, out—as he fully expected that by the end of the sentence, he would have digivolved into Beelzemon. It would have been impressive, intimidating, and cool.
Except that nothing happened.
Impmon blinked. What was happening? He tried gain, searching for that fizzing spark of energy to trigger the evolution, but it was weak, more like static electricity from when someone rubbed his fur with a balloon instead of lightning in a jar.
Even MetalTyrannomon seemed embarrassed for him for a second. At least, before lunging forward, toothy mouth agape and stringy spit flying. The ground shuddered with each thundering step, knocking Impmon flat—
A grinding crack ripped through the ground beneath their feet as though a huge monster was trying to claw its way out from the other side. The ground was shaking, but by now Impmon realized numbly that it couldn't be the result of MetalTyrannomon. He wasn't thinking of much else aside from the cold panic that was growing in his guts like a weed. Why couldn't I digivolve?
A crimson star plummeted from the sky, bathing the barren landscape in a sickly heat that made Impmon feel nauseous before a spark of recognition jolted him unsteadily to his feet.
"Move!" Someone hissed. He found himself in someone's grip as he was whisked away; just as what remained of the D-Reaper plunged into the crack, taking MetalTyrannomon and much of the area Impmon had been standing on with it. The dark Ultimate disappeared into a million data particles with an anguished howl, as the D-Reaper seemed to shrink, shudder, and fall away into darkness.
The tremors stopped.
Impmon sat up with a grunt, holding his left arm and blinking against the caked dirt and rocks around the corners of his eyes.
Newly shattered shale and stone slid noisily into place as the ground settled, echoing eerily on the jagged plain. . The ground around them had been pulverized, full of craters, cracks and scattered with the odd splash of blood, dust and hair. The haze of battle dissipated enough for Impmon to make out the battered forms of his friends, hunching their backs against the thin winds or lying flat on the ground staring blindly up at a now empty sky.
Everything was still. He was suddenly very tired, very heavy, and very cold.
"What just happened?" his voice was flat and rang hollow over the battlefield.
The silence stretched, and for some reason, Impmon couldn't bring himself to even care. There was just emptiness, like the inside of a cleaned-out refrigerator. It was so quiet that when Calumon finally spoke, his sad mewl seemed loud enough to make him wince.
"…I'm kinda hungry."
No one answered him.
After who knew how long of sitting out there in a daze, the pack of Digimon dragged finally themselves out of the open. No one said it, but there was a definite sense that no one wanted to risk another encounter. This strange aura of weakness and defeat that clung to them like a nasty smell left a particularly bitter taste in Impmon's mouth, especially after his failed attempt at digivolution.
Guilmon had been the first to discover a potential shelter. It was a punched out hole in the side of a slatey mountain, but it was cave enough to at least provide some cover and barrier from the nasty winds outside. No one had the energy or wherewithal to try and find something better, and with minimal conversation had flopped down inside and fell into an uncomfortable sleep. A few hours later people started to stir, woken by the cold, which had prompted attempts to create a heat source. Terriermon had suggested they try and make some "heat rocks", as there was literally nothing else in this wasteland to burn to make a proper fire. The group had initially looked to Guilmon for the source, but his flame was so hot it had reduced the thin stone to a blob of rapidly cooling red-blue goop. Then, as the only other fire-wielder in the group, it was Impmon's turn to try. It was a "desperate times" measure, because even as he cast his flames over and over again, he could already feel the resigned gazes of the people around him. In the end, the only sustainable fire was the blush of shame in his own face. He couldn't get the rocks to stay warm for more than about five seconds. Nearly shaking with exhaustion—what was wrong with them all?—they'd decided to can it and try and get some more rest. Too humiliated to speak, Impmon had thrown himself down next to the rocks, before Guilmon had pulled him close,
"It's okay, Impmon, it's not like I did any better. You can sleep with me."
The demon dinosaur's hide was very warm, and it was more because of that that Impmon couldn't bring himself to move. However, the floor was cold and leeching his heat out, and that metal guy—Guardromon or whatever his name was, wasn't helping matters. His body was made of metal, so having him in here was pretty much the equivalent leaving the freezer door open.
He also wasn't used to sleeping on the ground. He preferred sleeping in trees, or other high places. But that was silly—how had he slept while on rampage as Beelzemon not too long ago? Actually…if he thought about it, the memories he had of that time were strange. Mostly weirdly colored, lurid patches of grotesquely disjointed memory or silent, vivid images of the ground vanishing beneath Behemoth and the terrified dust of victims. Details were hard to recall. He couldn't remember sleeping at all.
Disconcerted, he opened his eyes.
The sound of everyone's breathing down was loud and distracting, and though on an intellectual level he could appreciate being here in this group, he still felt strange and uncomfortable here. He felt even more out of place that that Monodramon guy. There was something missing, and that hollow space in his heart ached.
Impmon didn't know how long he dwelled on it. But with every passing moment, it seemed like Guilmon's rough hide, warm and pebbly, became as abrasive as a cheese grater as he thought of his Tamers. Ai was probably holding the brand-new digivice, winding up the cord around her neck and letting it spin round and round, wondering what the point of it was if Impmon wasn't there. Makoto was probably drawing right now. He imagined him scribbling furiously with the blunt end of a purple crayon, getting frustrated and going over it in red before that one snapped in half.
He'd promised he'd never leave them. Would they forgive him for it? They were just kids, after all.
Unable to stand it anymore, he left the cave.
Okay, so outside was a lot colder than he expected. It was a thin, bitter kind of cold, the kind that seemed to slide under your skin and stay there. He knew what he was doing was completely stupid, but he couldn't bring himself to care. With no particular destination, and clearly nothing but the same type of rocks and dangerous digimon for miles around, he found himself drifting back towards the enormous fissure in the ground.
It had the look of a huge, raw scar.
He sat down close to the edge and peered downwards. Maybe he was imagining it, but he thought he could feel a faint heat, somewhere in the bottomless black. He grit his teeth.
"You're not dead, are you, you bastard?" Even after all this time, all that sacrifice, the thing was still alive, waiting, sleeping. The thought suddenly set fire to his insides, bringing his memories and regret to a boiling point.
They had been thrown back into the Digital World after nearly dying in their attempt to save both worlds. They'd lost their Tamers, and had no clue how, if it was even possible, to get back to them. It wouldn't have been so bad, maybe, if there hadn't been that moment of hope, that promise of forgiveness to start a new life in the wake of the disaster, only for that hope to be ripped away.
Now they were stranded in the middle of nowhere, and he was back to his original state of powerlessness.
He screamed, grabbing a bunch of rocks and hurling them with all his might down into the fissure. He didn't stop there, either, flinging fireballs after them. They had all the strength and sting of Christmas crackers, but that didn't seem to matter.
"You—stupid—blob! It's not fair!"
His tirade was brought to a sharp halt as after a particularly spirited flinging motion he overbalanced, wobbling precariously over the edge tail and arms flailing. He might have fallen straight down into the canyon, if someone hadn't grabbed his tail and yanked him backwards.
"Do you really need a closer look at the thing that nearly killed you?"
He did not have the patience to listen to Renamon right now.
"I think I heard it laughing—and don't you forget that it nearly had the whole world, not just me! " He savagely kicked a piece of shale sticking up out of the ground and jammed his claw. He choked down a yelp of pain, clenching his fists so tightly they hurt. But the fire seemed to drain out of him like water out of a colander after a few quiet heartbeats of staring down into that yawning abyss.
He sat down heavily.
"It's still alive."
Renamon walked up to him and looked down into the canyon.
"Yes. I don't even know if it can die."
"Of course. All that fighting and death and destruction, and for what? We sacrificed everything. Is there no justice in the world?"
Impmon flopped onto his back. The sky was vast and empty gray.
A dark chuckle escaped him. He couldn't help it, even though he hadn't wanted to. "I guess not. Hey, after all, I'm still alive, right?"
Renamon didn't say anything. But he could feel her eyes.
"What are you staring at?" he growled.
"Giving up isn't like you."
"Well, being an optimist isn't either!" Impmon snapped, flailing his fists. "What else am I supposed to do? We're a million miles away from everything we ever gave a damn about, we were attacked a microsecond after we landed back here, we're practically sharing an apartment with the thing that nearly destroyed both worlds, we've got no food, no idea where to go, and in case you don't remember, I'm back to being unable to digivolve! And—and—"
Ai and Makoto's faces bloomed in the back of his mind. He remembered being close enough to see their tears, the confusion in their faces as he was leaving them, yet again…
He shook his head furiously.
"We won! And this is what happens!"
The sky overhead snapped from night to day, but he barely noticed.
"So tell me, oh wise and mighty one, what are we supposed to do?"
Guilmon's voice startled them out of their standoff.
"Start walking, of course."
They both whirled in their friend's direction. Guilmon, followed by the rest of the group were walking towards them, looking a lot more sprightly and refreshed than Impmon could have fathomed given his black mood. The sun was glinting off the red reptile's scales and warming his eyes. Impmon blinked. It practically made him glow, as if Guilmon himself was the only warmth in this stupid place.
Of course, he responded in his trademark articulate fashion.
"We start walking," Guilmon repeated. "How are we supposed to find Takato and the others if we just stand here?"
"Good thing you're both here. I would have hated it if we had to split the party this early on!" Terriermon grinned.
"W-wait!" Impmon stammered. "How are we supposed to find them at all?"
Terriermon shrugged. "You can't find something unless you start looking."
Was there really all there was too it? Just take a step. It seemed like a wild goose chase, as much as his previous attempts at doing anything right were. A huge pointless waste of effort and emotion, to the point where when they finally landed here, he was as wrung out as an old sponge.
That imagery sparked something in him. There were few things more disgusting, pathetic and nasty as an old sponge. He was no old sponge! Was he really just going to lie down and forget Ai and Mako, after everything he'd endured previously to go home? After he had made it home? Fate had dealt him nothing but crappy hands, but that had never stopped him before…
It wasn't like he was any stranger to long, hard roads.
"Hey, Impmon, you're going to get left behind!"
He charged after them.