Pamtre Berry

Stalling on the Tracks


For five years, Ingo was stuck in the past literally. For the past two weeks, he's only been stuck there figuratively. Where is his home station when he can't have both of his families?

Date Posted


Word Count



Ingo, Emmet, Chandelure, Tangrowth, Gliscor, Alakazam


This was the first pokemon fic I'd written in a long time, since the N series I wrote back in high school. It was really refreshing to come back to pokemon after so long! And yes, it is the stereotypical "Dealing with the fallout of Ingo returning from Hisui" trope. I love themes of not being able to go back to where you were, and/or going back and finding you've changed too much to fit right anymore. Hope you enjoy!

Dear Emmet,

I have changed course for the evening, but I will return to our home station soon. If you wake before I arrive, please do not worry. I have left Alakazam here for you to contact me should any unforeseen delays arise. I have my cell phone, however, I may not have service where I am going. I would tell you of my destination, but I do not wish for you to change tracks for my sake. I have performed my safety checks. I love you.

Full speed ahead!


Emmet had already donned his coat before finishing his brother’s note. Underneath he still wore his pajamas. Normally that would be unacceptable. It still felt itchingly wrong. An affront to his uniform. But he did not have time to waste if he was to stay on schedule.

“Check safety,” he quietly said to himself while taking inventory. 

He had keys. He had his pokeballs. He no longer slept without them, on the miniscule chance that whatever happened to Ingo might one day happen to him as well. He couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from his team.

Of course, he couldn’t bear being separated from his brother again, either.

Emmet stood behind the couch. Alakazam didn’t look up from his television show. It was a Sinnoh romance drama of some sort. Emmet didn’t know details. He didn’t have time to watch television. There were too many exciting people and battles in the real world.

I know your opinions, Alakazam spoke into Emmet’s mind. Yet the complex romantic relationships between humans fascinate me. Neither you nor Warden Ingo will entangle yourselves in such convoluted plots, so I must understand through other means.

“Where is Ingo?” Emmet asked, smoothing out his sleeves. The texture calmed him somewhat. He still needed his hat, though. He took it from the top of the coat rack and adjusted it over his hair.

As long as he wore his coat and hat, his brother would recognize him. Emmet did not want to take the chance that Ingo would not otherwise.

He has asked that I do not impart that knowledge unless he is derailed, Alakazam said. He ate honey out of a jar with one of his spoons. It was strange how he could speak psychically even while eating. He is not derailed. Our bond is strong and intact.

Emmet clenched his jaw, his smile tightening. Alakazam’s bond with his trainer was strong. But what about Emmet’s? Since when could he not anticipate his twin’s moods and movements? 

(He knew when. He did not want to think about it.)

Your thoughts are loud. Please think them elsewhere. Adam and Irina are about to reunite after losing their way in Mount Coronet.

Emmet sighed through gritted teeth. He did not care about Alakazam’s show. But he loved his brother. He loved his brother’s pokemon, even the strange ones that did not know what to make of Emmet.

He tapped his foot in a rhythm that was normally comforting. There was little comfort to be had when his brother was missing in the middle of the night. Alone.

Was he upset about today’s loss? Or was he running from something else? Ingo had never been a sore loser. Even if it was technically his fault. It was difficult to win unless you and your partner were in perfect sync. It was exceptionally difficult to win when your partner unleashed a Mold Breaker-powered Earthquake on your Eelektross.

That was okay. Emmet and Ingo would become coupled again. It had only been two weeks. Their conflicting schedules would sync soon. Their pokemon would again battle together as a well-oiled machine. 

They would win. Because they were the Subway Bosses. And that was what they did.

Your thoughts. Loud.

Right. It was easy to forget, as Emmet had never had a psychic-type partner before. This twisting track was full of challenges, but also new and exciting opportunities!

He stepped out onto the balcony, hoping that the distance and glass door would be enough to muffle his thoughts from Alakazam. The pokemon didn’t listen all of the time, and when he did it was often not intentional. Like how Emmet did not mean to speak so stiffly, and Ingo did not mean to shout as loudly as a train whistle.

Ingo could control his volume now. A little. It had been part of his safety checks in Hisui. He could not startle the wild pokemon without suffering consequences.

“I am Emmet,” he enunciated clearly, though not loudly. “I do not change.” 

He stared up at the night sky, which was a soft gray from the city’s ambient light. Nimbasa was never dark. It was never quiet. Emmet liked it that way. 

Ingo did not, anymore. Many nights, Emmet watched him squint up at the sky as if something else should be there. The sounds of cars and people kept Ingo awake. And Ingo’s restlessness kept Emmet awake. Emmet did not know how his brother had snuck out without waking him tonight. Ingo’s stealth must be effective for more than sneaking past wild pokemon.

He could have woken Emmet. Emmet wouldn’t have minded.

He clenched his fist, neatly-trimmed nails digging into his palms. He hadn’t donned his gloves before stepping out into the chill night. 

It didn’t matter. His track ended here. He would not go after his brother. 

His brother did not want to be found.

“I am Emmet. Ingo and I are a two-car train. But what if this is no longer his home station? What if I can’t…”

Tears welled up in his eyes. Collected in the corners of his smile. The salt tasted sharp on his tongue.

“What if I can’t follow?”


Ingo’s breath puffed in small clouds, the condensation chiling his nose. He hardly felt the cold, however. Between his coat (the old, torn one, not the fresh copy Emmet had commissioned last week), Chandelure’s purple flames, and the strain of climbing up the cliff face, he had warmth to spare.

Warmth aside, the climb up Chargestone Mountain was pleasant. No eyes watched him but his partners, Gliscor and Chandelure.

He had expected to finally blend in when he returned home. No more whispers and gossip about the man with no memories, no family, no past. No winces when he spoke at his normal volume. No stares at his strange apparel.

As it turned out, he had always been strange. Returning after five years did not make people distrust him here, but it did mean that he drew attention. Eyes, staring. Voices, asking. 

Questions. So many questions. 

Apparently he had been well-known here even before his track change. How had he handled it? So many people watching… not that he disliked people. He had certainly felt lonely in the Highlands, even with his pokemon and Lady Sneasler. 

He must have been used to the attention. He would get used to it again… hopefully. So far, the only thing that felt completely natural was battling on the Single Trains. Even with his brother—

Ingo’s hand slipped. Loose pebbles brushed through his fingers. Before he could fall, Gliscor’s tail curled around his arm.

“Thank you, friend.” He gave the pokemon a respectful nod, heart pounding. He knew he could rely on his partners, but his body’s instinctual reaction to falling never quite went away.

Where was he? Not physically, but mentally. His train of thought had gone off track… no matter. He was not here, climbing towards the cold moonlight, to think.

He needed to feel. What, exactly, he wasn’t sure. He’d thought the emotion, the strange longing, would disappear when he returned to his home station. 

Perhaps it would have, if his memories had fully returned alongside him.

Finally, and yet too soon, he pulled himself to the top of the cliff. Sweat clung to him like a familiar coat, under his literal familiar coat. Somehow he’d come to miss feeling like a dirty Piloswine.

Even more familiar and comforting were the stars. The constellations were different, as Hisui—Sinnoh—was on a different continent, but the sight still drained some of the tension from his shoulders. 

“What a beautiful destination!” he shouted contently. 

A few Staravia—no, Tranquill—took flight from the surrounding trees. It was difficult to tell the bird pokemon apart from such a distance at night, and his memory arrived with the correct word a few seconds too late.

…Even in his mind he was making excuses, justifying his failures to merge onto the proper track. 

Gliscor alighted in the grassy clearing beside him, and Chandelure cuddled up to his side. He hugged her close, tall tales of burning souls be danged.

He chuckled. Elesa would enjoy that pun. 

He… remembered that Elesa liked puns. She had been over to their apartment plenty of times since he’d returned, but this was the first time that he had remembered something about her naturally, with no prompting.

“I am getting better, aren’t I?” He stroked Chandelure’s side, and she chimed happily. 

He remembered her, too. The day they first met. Details were still hazy, but Ingo’s… father? Yes, his father—it was his funeral, wasn’t it? He and Emmet… they’d become uncoupled, Emmet chasing up the spiral of stairs, higher, higher, to reach the tower’s bell. Litwick had found Ingo out of breath, tears running down his face as he failed to catch up to his brother.

He could recall the exact moment Litwick first floated into his hands, yet not the significance of the tower’s bell, or even the face of his father who had passed on.

He sighed, sitting down in the damp grass. It had only been two weeks. He couldn’t truly expect to reach his destination in such a short time, not after five years of living in Hisui. 

“This is home. This is the place I tried so hard to remember, and I am remembering. I have you, and Elesa, and Emmet.”

And yet, when he closed his eyes, he was in the Highlands, the wind tugging at the tattered ends of his coat. On the Subway, the rocking of the car became the gentle jostling as Lady Sneasler carried him up the steepest cliffs. All of the motions, sounds, and smells that once tugged his memories of Unova to the surface—they had all been thrown into reverse. Hurtling in the wrong direction.

How could he be home, and still feel so homesick?

Chandelure chimed again, waving her flames for his attention. He’d stopped petting her when he’d sat down.

“Apologies.” He patted her softly. “I did miss you, truly. I just miss the other passengers on my journey, as well.”

Gliscor curled around his feet. Ingo had been fortunate to take some of his passengers with him. Gliscor, Alakazam, Tangrowth, Machamp. Some were adjusting better to the new scenery than others. Alakazam had become fascinated with new technology, television in particular, and Machamp enjoyed playing sports at Nimbasa’s stadiums. 

Gliscor grew stir-crazy, however, and Tangrowth… Ingo was afraid he would need to relocate her. She couldn’t put down roots in the concrete jungle. Whenever Ingo let her out of her pokeball, her vines seemed a little more wilted, and she only perked up when he took her for walks in Lostlorn Forest.

He was a Subway Boss. He had a schedule to follow, and it did not allow for scenic detours as often as Tangrowth deserved.

He let her out now, at least. She blinked a few times, seeming a bit disoriented after her time in the pokeball. In Hisui, she had often remained outside, only entering her pokeball in the village, so as not to scare the more skittish citizens.

“Good evening, Tangrowth!” He reached into his pocket and offered her a springy mushroom. The last that he had.

She took it with a grateful wiggle, and the mushroom disappeared somewhere within her vines. If he was to keep her, he would need to find a new supply of the fungi. Surely with his (surprisingly large) salary he could afford to import them, if necessary.

Tangrowth plopped down beside him, her vines prodding at the firm earth. Despite the grass and sparse trees growing on top of the mountain, there was only a thin layer of soil. Trangrowth let out a whine as her vines struck rock.

“I am sorry, my friend.” Ingo’s brow furrowed. “This isn’t your home station. We will find a more suitable destination for you soon.”

Her whine turned to more of a low hum, and she wrapped her arms around him. He would miss this, if she decided to leave. Perhaps she could stay on the ranch where Emmet bred his Joltiks. Her hugs were third only to Lady Sneasler’s, which were second only to Irida’s. Which were, of course, now second to Emmet’s… so perhaps he needed to adjust his rankings.

Irida had ranked his hugs highly, too—though it had hardly been a competition. As a new clan leader with no immediate family, and a surrogate mother who was distant at best, there were few passengers Irida could turn to without judgment. That was the one benefit to being a lone cab disconnected from his rails. He’d had no one to gossip to, even if he had been the type.

He rubbed his thumb over his Warden’s band, which she had graciously allowed him to keep. The wood was rough where one of Lady Sneasler’s kits had accidentally clawed it—and his arm. Irida had made a poultice of pecha berries and stayed at his station until he’d healed. He’d built up a resistance to the poison after a series of similar incidents, thankfully—though she had never complained about the journey when his Gligar sent word that he was ill. He’d been just as quick to attend her when Lord Arcanine passed, splitting her relations with Warden Palina even further.

She’d cried into his coat that day, shakily confessing that he was the only family she had left. And now he would never see her again.

Tangrowth gurgled, holding him closer. If her hug tightened any further, it would snap ribs. Either that, or he would be sucked into the depths of her vines.

“Check safety,” he grunted out, and she relaxed her grip. Gliscor gave a chittering laugh. “Thank you, Tangrowth. I am sure that Irida is on a better course now, anyway.”

She had grown considerably since that emotional day. She had Adaman now. They had begun dating shortly before Ingo’s departure. He hoped that the Diamond Clan leader would make sure she never lacked for companionship and comforting embraces.

Well. “Now” was relative. She had likely passed away decades ago, according to his current time.

He bit his lip, tears beginning to prick his eyes. Irida. Lady Sneasler. Zisu. Akari. Lian. Even Melli. They had reached their final destinations. 

His pokemon held him gently as his shoulders trembled. Chandelure, Gliscor, Tangrowth. They were here. Emmet was here—

Emmet. His brother would worry if he didn’t return soon. Ingo knew how Emmet worried when he couldn’t sleep. But still, the thought of facing him like this—returning in such a wrecked state would only worry Emmet more.

Ingo didn’t remember everything. But he remembered that Emmet’s eyes used to have far fewer creases when he smiled. His jaw didn’t clench so tight. Ingo had returned, but he still hadn’t been able to wash away his brother’s anxieties.

If only the Ingo that Emmet knew had returned. That Ingo would know exactly how to cheer up his brother. That Ingo wouldn’t divert his course to the mountains for the sake of solitude. 

That Ingo wouldn’t wouldn’t accidentally bring the wrong Haxorus to work, causing its Earthquake to knock out Emmet’s Eelektross—causing them to lose.

Emmet liked winning more than anything else. Lately Ingo felt like extra cargo, only holding his brother back.

“We’re a two-car train.” His voice shook, but didn’t lower in volume. “Ingo and Emmet.”

If he said it enough times, maybe he would finally feel like his car wasn’t just a burden.


The sky was pinkening over the Rondez-View Ferris Wheel by the time Gliscor dropped Ingo at his apartment. On the balcony, so as not to wake Emmet with jingling keys—assuming Emmet was still asleep, which was unlikely.

Ingo quietly slid the glass door aside. And was immediately met with the snoring of a freight train.

He covered his mouth to avoid letting out a laugh. Emmet had fallen asleep on the couch, his legs draped over Alakazam’s lap. The pokemon seemed to be sleeping too, though his spoon still levitated with a large dollop of honey. The soft light and voices from the television covered the two of them like a blanket.

Ingo remembered that he had a phone. Which had a camera.

Fighting a snort, he snapped a photo—and blinded himself with the flash.

“Ingo!” Emmet bolted upright so quickly that his hat fell off. 

“Why were you sleeping in your hat?” Ingo asked. “You didn’t leave the station to look for me, did you? I left a note—”

“I was dressed before I saw the note.” Emmet flopped over the back of the couch, squeezing Ingo tightly. “Alakazam listened to you. He didn’t tell me where you were.”

Alakazam let out a wide yawn. The spoonful of honey slowly lowered to the coffee table. 

I… slept through the rest of the season…?

“No. I ended the episode when you fell asleep,” Emmet said, his face still squished against Ingo’s stomach. His hugs truly were the best.

Then why is it still playing? Alakazam asked, and Emmet blushed a little. 

“A Rotom infected it?”

This is… episode six. I was watching episode fourteen. Alakazam squinted at Emmet knowingly.

“A rotom infected it,” Emmet repeated.

Ingo chuckled, crossing his arms on top of his brother’s head. He could still easily tell when Emmet was lying.

“Alakazam dragged you into it.”

“It’s a retelling of a Sinnoh legend! I thought it would help me understand.”

Emmet let go, sliding back into a sitting position on the couch. Ingo squished in between him and Alakazam, who had paused the show for real.

“Has it helped?” Ingo asked curiously, squinting at the static screen. 

A Glaceon purred against the legs of a girl who looked somewhat familiar. Like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of the friend he knew. His chest tightened.

“I wonder if Lady Sneasler is in there anywhere. I don’t suppose they could cast a pokemon who is now extinct, however…”

His shoulders hunched. Here he had a chance to connect with his brother. His brother had been trying to connect with him. And all he could think about was what he’d left behind.

Emmet’s hand found his hand and gave it a tight squeeze. 

“I am Emmet. Other things change. Pokemon and places change. Even you change. But I do not.”

Emmet stared at his lap. Without his hat on, though, Ingo could see his eye—the painful red rimming it. Unshed tears glistened in its corner.

“I’m sorry.” Ingo squeezed his hand back, desperately. “I did not mean to get off track. I… know I am not the brother you remember. I will exert more effort—”

“Ingo.” Emmet’s voice showed an uncharacteristic amount of emotion. And that emotion… it could be nothing but anguish. “You do not need to do anything. You are my brother. You are the brother I want. I am Emmet, and you are Ingo. That will not change. Even if you no longer want to be a Subway Boss. Even if you choose a different destination. You will be Ingo, and I will be Emmet. And we will be brothers.”

For once, Ingo’s voice failed him.


His throat constricted like one of Tangrowth’s vines. Did Emmet think he didn’t want to be a Subway Boss anymore? Or was this just a polite way of telling Ingo he wasn’t needed?

Alakazam bonked him on the head with his sticky spoon, and he jumped. He’d practically forgotten his pokemon sitting beside him.

Both of your thoughts are so loud, I’m shocked you can’t hear each other, Alakazam grumbled.

Ingo’s brow furrowed. He took off his hat, which would need to be washed now. Not that the damage was any worse than it had suffered in the past.

“We used to,” Emmet said quietly, and Ingo blinked.

“We could really hear each other’s thoughts?” That ability certainly hadn’t returned, if so.

“Not literally. But we were in perfect sync. We were—”

“ —a two-car train,” Ingo finished automatically.

Emmet beamed as brightly as a headlight, and Ingo’s own frown softened in turn. 

“I still want to battle at your side,” Ingo said. “Even if my axles are somewhat rusty, there is nothing I’d want more. I only worry that I am keeping you from achieving a higher state.” 

He released his brother’s hand, but rested their shoulders together. 

“You say that you never change, but you are always exploring new tracks. New strategies, new ways to become better and stronger. And I—I’m the one who’s been stuck in the past.”

The joke was half-intentional. Ingo’s shoulders relaxed in relief when Emmet laughed.

“You were stuck in the past. And the past is stuck with you.” Emmet’s smile wavered just a little. “I do not understand it. I want to understand it. I want to be here for you. When you left tonight, I thought you didn’t want to be here. That you didn’t… want me here.”

“Of course not!” Ingo shouted. 

(Fortunately, their apartment was at the top floor and furthermost corner of the building. He suspected that was intentional.)

“Of course not,” he repeated, just a little quieter. His voice didn’t shake the light fixture this time. “You are the reason I never stopped searching for a track home. When I could remember nothing else, I remembered a man who looked like me. A man I would battle with, who was the other car of my train. I knew that home was wherever you were, Emmet.”

Emmet threw his arms around him, burying his face in the collar of his coat. The cloth muffled Emmet’s sniffling. Ingo hadn’t intended to make him cry. He rubbed comforting circles on his brother’s back, until Emmet said—

“You smell bad.”

Ingo stopped, spluttering. Even Alakazam laughed.

“You smell verrrrrry bad.” Emmet giggled, but didn’t pull away. “You did not want me to follow you. You did not have cell service. And you smell bad. You were mountain climbing.”

Ingo finally let out a chuckle. “I was, yes.”

“You are much buffer than me. I will have to train hard to climb together with you.” Emmet stiffened. “Unless you need to spend time uncoupled. I can wait in the station.”

“No, that isn’t… well. I did need time alone tonight, yes.” Ingo sighed. “I do not want my worries to weigh on you when there’s nothing you can do—there’s nothing that anyone can do. I had to choose between one family and another, and I chose you. It was a one-way track.”

Dialga and Palkia had been clear about that. They could restore him to his proper place and time, but afterwards, he would be out of their sight. They were not omnipotent.

“You can tell me about them,” Emmet said. “That’s something I can do. I can listen.”

Ingo had given him the general story, of course, but the personal details... 

Irida, laughing as she pulled him out of a snowdrift. Melli’s Stunky, accidentally gassing the Diamond Clan Warden so intensely that he’d passed out. Lady Sneasler, stealing the fluff from Ingo’s hat to warm her eggs. Akari, following him through the dark.

Emmet was a wonderful listener. He would want to hear the stories, no matter how small. It might hurt Ingo to talk about those he’d left behind, but it was better than pretending that they didn’t exist.

“I’ll teach you proper safety checks for rock climbing on our next day off.”

Emmet opened his mouth, and Ingo cut off the anticipated reply.

“Not tomorrow, though. Or today, I suppose. I may be buffer than you now, but I still run out of fuel.”

“Right!” Emmet leapt to his feet, pulling Ingo up with him. “You need to perform your safety checks. And you need a shower!”

Ingo laughed. As relaxing as working up a sweat had felt, he did appreciate running water and liquid soap, among plenty of other modern amenities.

“Thank you, Emmet.”

“Of course. I will always be here to tell you when you stink.” 

Emmet noogied the top of Ingo’s hatless head. Another good reason to stay in uniform, though Ingo didn’t really mind.

“And I’ll tell you everything else, when I’m not running on fumes.”

“I will add it to the schedule!”

While Ingo headed to the bathroom, he glanced over his shoulder. Emmet had plopped back on the couch next to Alakazam. The television program resumed, along with what sounded like an argument between Emmet and Alakazam about two of the characters. Ingo shook his head with a chuckle.

They were still a two-car train, and his cargo had never felt lighter.