Disclaimer: Pokémon and all related characters and materials are property of Game Freak and Nintendo.
A/N: There is no backstory whatsoever for the subway masters. Since they're my favorites, I decided to write about what life may have been like for them before the subway. Hope you dig it.
Behind the Yellow Line
By: Nanaki BH
Something felt amiss. Even with his eyes closed, his mind embedded somewhere between this dream and the next, he could tell that on the outside, something was missing.
At night, there were times when Nobori's mind rewound and played the memories from their childhood in vivid color as if he were watching a movie. Except it wasn't anything worth bringing popcorn to. It was a pitiful production full of youthful anguish and wasted tears, broken bicycle gears, and loud voices. After so long, he couldn't rightly remember what their words were anymore.
He could still see his father, though; the way he loomed over them both and turned their only safe place into another nightmare. He could hear his voice, remembered the quality and the way it sounded when he placed his hands tightly over his ears to try to ignore what he was saying to their mother. Now, he couldn't remember the things he said, but he could still feel the sting and the bitterness that they left behind.
Being a twin, someone with another half, he felt like he was the most safe and complete when he was with Kudari.
When they were little, Kudari would take Nobori's hand and press his lips on the back of his hand and he could feel his eyelashes fluttering against his wrist. In his dream, he could vaguely remember the way that it tickled. He held tightly onto his brother's hands in return and willed all the bad words and hate away. After hours of listening behind the door in their room – not wanting to listen, but not knowing how to shut off their ears – they would collapse into bed and look at each other silently in the dark from their opposite sides of the room.
Time passed and they grew older, but their father never stopped. They worried every night for their mother, for themselves. When night came, Kudari began extending the offer for him to stay in his bed.
He never refused.
If they were in the same bed, then they could hold each other's hands, they could press their foreheads together, they could kiss.
There had been a time when Kudari had his hair cut differently. That was how people were able to tell them apart and Nobori hated it. With a frown on his face, he'd mess up his brother's hair with his hands and tried to get it to look like his. His hair was longer than Kudari's though, so it was impossible for it to ever look right.
But there was one day before they went to school. Kudari was collecting his things already, ready to leave and he kept calling for him to hurry along. In the bathroom, Nobori carefully held his school scissors in front of himself, a lock of hair twisted around his finger. With a few awkward snips here and there, the reflection in the mirror began to transform.
He came running down the stairs with hardly any time to spare for breakfast. When Kudari caught sight of him, he stopped him in the foyer and held him by the shoulders. Looking at each other face to face, it was the first time they looked completely the same.
It made it harder for their father to know which of them he should be yelling at. Whenever Nobori felt the most down, Kudari would accept any pain in his place. His kindness was the kind that was difficult to pay back. Even with all of the abuse he took, he still somehow managed to smile through it.
Nobori started to worry about his brother because the smile he remembered was starting to become something else. Their father demanded their respect and hated him for how he continued to smile, even when he swung the back of his hand at his cheek. A smile like that was unnerving; the kind that meant he was probably a second away from dropping the act and sobbing. Or hurting someone.
He was evil, their father.
He was evil, but Nobori didn't want Kudari to get in trouble. He didn't question why he kept a knife under his pillow, but he didn't want him to use it for anything.
One night, he awoke alone and flew instantly from his bed to search for Kudari. In the kitchen, he stopped in his tracks, seeing their father sitting at the table, nursing bloody knuckles. Carefully, he crept around him, afraid of confronting him or being noticed, but he was paid no attention. He found Kudari outside, a nasty yellow bruise forming around his eye. In his hand was the knife, clean, reflecting the light from the moon.
He didn't question him. If Kudari had to stay any longer, Nobori feared what would become of that knife. So he ran inside, gathered up some of their things in their backpacks, and met him out in the front yard.
After that, all he could remember were the miles and miles of train tracks he saw as he watched the sight of their town disappearing behind them. He still doesn't know whatever became of their mother and he doesn't really think about it anymore.
They were together, but the subways they traveled while they looked for a new home were still fraught with people who wanted to hurt them. Somehow, he convinced Kudari that raising pokémon would be a better way to protect themselves than defending themselves the way he was so tempted to. Maybe the convincing happened when he took the knife and threw it out the window on the train. That move got him socked in the jaw, but he weathered it well.
He sat back down and waited for the train to pull up at their next destination.
They met their pokémon in peculiar ways. Kudari refused to stop and kept them moving from one train to the next. Nobori started to wonder if they were ever going to pick a location to stay at – any place would do, nearly. All he wanted to do was finally sit down and rest his feet and hold his brother and cry, but there was no time for that on the speeding railways. Some of the pokémon they met and befriended were left on the train by their owners like leftover baggage, discarded and thrown away. Once their trainers stepped off the train, they would be carried away to some other place and they would never have to see them again.
Perhaps it was because it was around the time when the subway battles began to take place. What started as an underground way of battling was turned into a legal, more safe version that had rules and rankings and they found themselves in the middle of it all as passengers. He supposed that the pokémon they found were rejected after their trainers lost their battles.
He wasn't sure why they took them in. The brothers needed them and they needed trainers who would accept them, no matter what the reason was. That may have been all there was to it. For all of the emotional distance that Kudari tried to put between him and his pokémon, Nobori could still tell that they were bonding the same as any other team. He loved them and he wasn't sure how to show it so he loved them in his own way by training them as hard as he could, often to the point of exhaustion.
The rails continued and instead of getting off and staying off, it became as if they were waiting to see the end of the line. Their stops in towns along the way were brief and dissatisfying. Their feet always felt like moving, going forward, like taking them away from what threatened them from behind. Without them noticing, they forgot where they came from and only remembered what they had ran from as a hazy bad dream, the rails beneath them their new life. As long as they stayed on the train, no one could catch them. They became unstoppable.
This was fine. Nobori finally felt calm and safe. He just worried what Kudari would say if he ever felt like stopping.
That was what was missing. Where was the sound of the tracks under the wheels, the roaring whoosh as the train sped through a tunnel? Nobori's back hurt as much as ever from sleeping awkwardly on the car's narrow bench, but he couldn't sense his brother nearby.
He sat up, found his hat in his lap, and fixed it back on his head. His eyes slowly adjusted to the light of the train car until he was able to blearily look around.
Kudari wasn't anywhere in sight – in the car, at least. It was odd to think that he had gotten up without him and wondered off while the train was stopped. Like usual, it seemed that no one had been strong enough to challenge them, otherwise he would have been awake already. Gathering his pokéballs off the seat, he attached them to the inside of his coat and stood tiredly to go outside to look for him.
"Ku... dari?" he muttered, taking a slow glance left, then right. No brother. His frown deepened.
He'd go wait back on the train for him. It was worrisome that he had abandoned him without telling him where he was going, but if he gave him a minute then he would surely-
That cheerful voice.
Nobori turned a few steps away from the train's open door and regarded his brother with a tired, bemused look.
"Fruit juice and snacks," he said by way of explanation, showing off the odd assortment of packaged foods he held in his arms. "Some for you and some for me. We'll share."
Nobori didn't question where he got them. He was glad he was back, though.
He turned back around and then walked one more step to return to the train and then the door...
Was that really Kudari? He looked so different when he wasn't smiling.
"It closed," he said. His hands unconsciously tightened around the things he was holding, crinkling the plastic wrappers.
"You left, so that's what we get. You shouldn't have left."
It was pointless to pound on the door or try to force it open, as tempting as it sounded. Well, that was probably how Kudari felt about it, but Nobori just felt... indifferent. The train's horn wailed and then it began to take off without them, leaving the pair standing helplessly behind the yellow line.
There wasn't much of a choice now, so Nobori carefully uncurled his brother's clenched fingers from around the items and took them into his own arms. Kudari stood as stiff as a board, his arms still in front of him, staring right ahead at the blank space in the tracks where the train had been. Balancing the things in one arm, Nobori plucked the straw from one of the juice boxes and stuck it through the foiled hole at the top and took a sip.
"This juice is pretty good. Let's go."
"We'll see it again."
Kudari let his arms fall to his sides. "The train..."
"We aren't the train," Nobori said firmly, crossing in front of him to look him in the eyes. "It's getting very late and I'm tired so we need to find a place to sleep. I will not leaving here without you."
Realizing that it would be unreasonable for them to stand still and wait however long for their train to return, Kudari nodded slowly and dropped his gaze to the ground. "Let's... go then."
It was late enough where they didn't have to worry about running into too many people on the street. Neither liked attention very much and the fact that they were twins was always enough alone to attract it. As they departed the platform, the sign overhead informed them that they were in Driftveil, which was only one town away from Nimbasa and their main station, but it still meant it would be a while before they saw the return of their train.
He felt tired enough to fall asleep on his feet, but the warmth he could feel from Kudari walking in step next to him kept him awake. They walked along the brick roads until they soon reached an inn that seemed affordable. It was late, but there was thankfully still a woman working behind the desk who gave them keys to a room and showed them the way to it. For some reason, she seemed impressed with the fact that they were the subway masters. Maybe it had something to do with how rarely they ventured out from the train.
Once they were alone, they removed their shoes at the door and Kudari moved to turn on the lamp that sat by their beds. "Two beds," he noted.
Nobori used one of them to put down the things he was holding and then silently began removing his outerwear. Kudari did the same until he was clothed in only his shirt and shorts and then climbed up onto the other bed, leaving enough room on one side for Nobori, who joined him a moment later.
"Maybe we should stay here," he said.
"In Driftveil?" Kudari asked, keeping his head down, nearly touching his brother's chest.
He shrugged a shoulder and the fingers on one of his hands idly played with Kudari's. "It would be good because no one here knows us. All they know is our names and what we do."
"What we do," Kudari repeated. "The train is what we do. There isn't anything else for us, so why would we leave the train? You're suggesting that we leave the train, aren't you?"
He sighed, stilling his fingers.
When had he suddenly started wanting something different than Kudari? As much as he wanted to agree with him, he just couldn't bring himself to let go of the fact that they had really left. This was a chance for something different, wasn't it?
Kudari stared, his gaze unwavering.
"I can't sleep like this."
"Neither can I."
So Kudari sat up, got up from the bed, and laid down on the floor instead.
"That's what you meant?" Nobori asked, peering over the side.
After a second, he got down and joined him. No matter what he was feeling now, he knew for sure that he could not rest easy without his brother next to him and without a hard surface beneath him. But now he also knew that he could dream without having to hear the drumming of the wheels on the tracks.
In the morning, he decided, he would see if he'd changed his mind about staying.