Emmet and Ingo. Ingo and Emmet. Ingo. Emmet. Their names were interchangeable to everyone but themselves, simply because no one else could ever be sure which boy they were talking to. They chose to eliminate any visual differences between them, which only added to the confusion. Once, Ingo's hair had been cut an inch shorter and Emmet had cried and cried until he was taken back to the hairdressers to have the same done to him. They did not correct the mistakes people made but relished in them; the more confusion, the more they were alike, the fewer differences between them. To those that knew them well, of course, there was a way to tell them apart without the boys realising it. As they grew older they would adjust their speech patterns around company to avoid revealing which of them was Ingo and which was Emmet, but when they were eight years old this was something that they simply did not notice.
"I feel lonely," Emmet had said one evening. They were not allowed to sit together during class time at school. They shared a classroom, a locker, a bench in the yard, but a table was too far. In their second year of education the school had tried to separate them. They had refused in the hallway, their parents had been called, and they had been put together again. Now, in their third year of education, they were forced to sit at opposite ends of the room following a decision made by their teachers and parents to start them on their own paths.
"Me too. They don't like getting us mixed up."
"I don't mind."
"Me neither. But the grown-ups do for some reason."
"I feel lonely, Ingo," Emmet looked up to the sky in time to see a flock of Tranquill flying past. Ingo frowned in response and flipped over a card on the grass. "Voltorb."
"I know. It means I lost again."
"You're wrong. The card, I mean. You picked wrong."
The boys gathered up their cards when they heard their names being called from the kitchen; Emmet, Ingo, boys. They responded to the noise of their mother's voice more than the names. After dinner came bath time, during which they took turns sitting just outside the open bathroom door while the other washed his hair.
Bed time was an informal affair; a quick kiss from their mother, a goodnight boys from their father, then lights out. They lay in silence for what felt like hours, but was more like minutes, until they were sure that their parents were no longer actively listening through their bedroom door. Emmet heard the rustling of sheets, the soft padding of his brother's feet on the carpet, and then more rustling and a voice at his ear.
"Don't feel lonely, Emmet. You know that I'll never leave you, remember when we promised? We said we'd never ever go anywhere so we never had to feel lonely."
"I feel less lonely now. I feel lonely at school. So far away from Ingo. But not now."
Emmet fumbled for his brother's hand in the darkness and held on as if he were drowning. Even though they preferred it that way, it was easy to feel a little lost in a world where no one could tell if you were yourself or your brother.
While his stomach had been aching for hours, Emmet still cried when his parents had taken him to the hospital in the dark. It wasn't just a stomach ache, the doctors said. It was more serious than that. Emmet was crying for many reasons that he couldn't quite articulate. It wasn't the pain, it didn't feel so bad once the doctor had given him that injection.
He would have a scar after they did the operation. He would have a scar and no appendix.
"We won't match. Ingo won't match Emmet. We won't be the same." He cried, long and loud, until Ingo woke up and walked over from the chair to see why he was crying.
"No one will know. People don't see our stomachs, Emmet. We can always wear shirts and not take them off, not even in summer." Ingo spoke but did not believe his own words. He felt ill himself when his mother had explained what would happen to Emmet. They would no longer be the same. One appendix between two was not enough.
"I don't want it. The operation. I want to go home."
"Does he have to?" Ingo turned to their parents, his eyes full of fear for his brother. "He doesn't want it, can't we all just go home?"
"Me too. Home, I mean."
Their father had sighed and lifted Ingo up onto the edge of the bed to talk to him. He explained that Emmet could not go home without having the operation first, it was too dangerous. He would only get worse and yes, Ingo, you're right, no one will know that you're different unless you're not wearing a shirt. And how often do you leave the house without a shirt on?
Ingo wriggled away from his father and crawled up beside Emmet to lie next to him. Both of the brothers were more scared than they had ever been before for many different reasons, only some of which overlapped. They worried about being so different; there was no way that they could match unless Ingo had the operation as well and no doctor would operate on a healthy boy. Emmet worried that the operation would hurt more than the pain in his side. Ingo had the worst worry by far, and in time the same fear would creep up on Emmet. But while they lay together and cried and cried about their circumstances, it was only Ingo that feared his brother could die.
The lights were out, their parents were sleeping in chairs by the bed and there was only enough light coming in to the room for the boys to see vague outlines of objects. Emmet's operation was scheduled for 9AM. They had slept for an hour at the most before Emmet woke up to the pain in his side again. Ingo followed suit no more than a minute later.
"Are you crying, Emmet?"
"No. It hurts."
"It's almost morning, they'll do your operation soon and it won't hurt anymore."
"We won't be the same."
"But it won't hurt."
They conversed in whispers, heads bowed together so each word they spoke fell straight into the others' ear. They didn't want their parents awake yet. They needed more time alone together with their worries.
"Operations are dangerous. Will I die? What will happen to Ingo?"
"You won't die." Ingo's arms wove around his brothers' neck and held him close as they both sobbed quietly. "You won't die because you promised, the same forever, remember? Always together and always the same, Emmet. You won't die."
He repeated it over and over until their father awoke. He struggled to pry Ingo's small fingers from Emmet and Emmet's from Ingo without hurting them. Ingo clung tightly to his father's neck and his tears flowed as he was taken out to the hallway.
"He'll be fine. It's only a small operation and he'll be able to come home tomorrow."
"Can I stay here tonight?"
"I don't think the hospital would like that."
"Because you're not sick," their father said with a small laugh.
"I can't leave Emmet here alone, he'll be scared and lonely and so will I."
"Let's get you some breakfast." Ingo felt his father smooth down his hair and press a kiss to the side of his head, but it was not enough to stop him crying into his shoulder.
Ingo felt a hand creep up and push his hair to the side. For a moment, just a moment, he thought that somewhere between the hallway and the elevator he'd fallen asleep. But then he remembered his father trying to convince him to eat, returning to an empty room, his mother trying her best to calm him down and to stop the tears. A nurse had returned the sleeping Emmet to his bed and Ingo had waited only just long enough for her to nod, giving him permission to crawl up beside his other half.
"I feel so sleepy, Ingo."
"The doctor put you to sleep for your operation, and then he gave you medicine so it didn't hurt. And the nurse before, she said that you'll be sleepy for days."
"Ingo was sleeping too, wasn't he?"
"Yeah, but I was sleeping here. They didn't want me to but I did."
"Can you check it? The scar. Is it big?"
"It might hurt."
"You just have to look," Emmet said. Ingo frowned and made as if he was thinking about his brother's request. He wanted to see the scar for himself, to see if it was big or small or if it was so small that no one would even notice it. He sat up and moved the hospital gown Emmet was wearing so he could see his stomach then replaced it carefully and moved a blanket over his feet. "Ingo?"
"They covered it with a big sticky thing. I can't see the scar, Emmet."
Ingo held up his fingers to indicate the size of the gauze. He curled back up beside Emmet so they could speak quietly like their parents were doing across the room. They didn't have long, they knew that. The adults would want to go home, to sleep, to shower, and they would take Ingo with them. For the first time in eight years it meant that the brothers would be separated for a whole night. They had never slept without the other in earshot. Their parents worried about them being so close but there was nothing they could do to stop the boys from their ways. Ingo offered his hand and Emmet simply took it. Together they lay in silence, waiting for the inevitable moment when they would be torn apart against their will.
Ingo couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned and cried and called out for his parents, for his mother then his father then his missing brother. Their mother had sat with him in his bed for almost half an hour and told him stories about anything she could think of to distract the poor boy. He clung to her shirt and cried, only half listening to the words of the stories – they all made him think of Emmet. Poor Emmet, lying alone in the hospital with only nurses for company. His mother had asked why he was so upset. She had known it would be hard for her boys to be separated but it seemed too much; she and he husband were worried about them.
"Because we promised to always be the same together," Ingo replied between sniffles.
"You will be."
"Emmet has a scar. He's different and we're different now so we can't ever be the same forever now."
"It's only a little scar and it'll fade soon enough." Their mother's tone was reassuring but Ingo doubted her words.
"Emmet's scar will go away?"
"Not completely, but in a few years you'll have to look very close to see it."
"We can't wait years."
"I think it's time for you to try and get to sleep," she said. Her tone was no longer reassuring and Ingo felt his bed shift as his mother stood up. She fixed his blankets and turned off the lamp on her way out of the room, leaving Ingo alone once again. He counted to ten in his head, skipping a few numbers and rushing through the rest, giving his mother only just long enough to get back into her own bed.
When she woke up in the morning she found Ingo not in his own bed but in Emmet's, curled up beneath the sheets. His cheeks were red from the tears but he was asleep, something she felt was nothing short of a minor miracle. When she picked Ingo up to return him to his own bed, she couldn't help but smile at the short, red line he had drawn onto his own stomach.
Emmet had not slept. It wasn't that he didn't feel tired - he was exhausted - but he refused to fall asleep just in case his parents decided to let Ingo come back. His stomach itched and ached but he didn't call for a nurse because he was supposed to be asleep. He moved between an almost sleeping state and consciousness until morning, never quite managing to shut down completely. Every squeak on the floor, every shuffle or cough could have been Ingo rushing back to his room. But all night Emmet was disappointed by the strange noises the hospital offered him.
It wasn't until after the light crept in and the nurses switched over that Emmet heard the noises he had been waiting to hear all night: his brothers' footsteps, rushing down the hall and into his room, Ingo's voice calling his name over and over, his own giggles of relief, and finally, Ingo holding him tightly and whispering all the worries he'd had the previous night into Emmet's ear.
"Can we promise again Emmet? Please, can we?"
"Yes. Never again. Don't leave me alone, Ingo, and I won't leave you."
"Never never never never." Ingo repeated the word so many times it stopped sounding like something he understood. But when Emmet joined in a few repetitions after his brother, the meaning came back, stronger than it had ever been.
They hugged and laughed and cried during their reunion, but never doesn't always mean never. Ingo and Emmet had much higher expectations of never than the universe had in store for them.
The boys knew it was a deliberate decision. It was carefully calculated by their parents, their new principal, by everyone except them. Twelve years old was too old. They were being split up, put into different classes with different timetables. Their parents had sat them down in the kitchen to break the news to them before their first day of secondary school. They sat side by side, across from their mother and father, letting the words fall around them, grasping hands tightly beneath the table.
"We can leave?" Ingo asked in an imitation of Emmet.
"Yes," their mother sighed. Chairs clattered as the boys fled back to their bedroom to finish getting ready for school.
"I don't want to." Emmet was shaking. "I feel sick. They didn't ask."
"They don't have to ask us, they're grown-ups."
"It's a new school. They won't know that I am Emmet. They might think I'm Ingo."
"That won't help. We're not supposed to be in the same place at the same time anymore."
"What about lunch?"
"We'll have lunch together."
"I – I don't want to go."
"I don't want to go either." Ingo gently pulled Emmet over so they both stood in front of the mirror. "Look."
"The same," Emmet grinned widely and straightened out his blazer. He shook his head to force his hair to sit more like Ingo's and smiled again. "Here." He turned away from the mirror to fix Ingo's tie, completely undoing the mess his brother had made of the fabric.
"Do you think you'll be alright without me?"
"Will you be alright without me?" Emmet threw the question back without looking up.
"Why did you think I would be alright without you?" The smile faltered as he dropped Ingo's tie and turned them back to the mirror again. "That's better. Now we're the same."
Their first day was something that the brothers wanted to forget before they were even left at the school gates. They only saw each other during lunch. It was the first time they had been apart during daylight.
Both were in tears during the trip home as they sat in the back seat of the car, holding hands tighter than they had been during breakfast. Their mother's half-hearted attempt at soothing them was bad enough, but the worst was yet to come.
"Emmet! Emmet!" Ingo shouted urgently. He knew Emmet was only a few steps behind but it couldn't wait. He stood in the doorway of their bedroom and stared.
"Your things. Where have they gone?"
"My things…" Emmet echoed and stepped into the room in front of his brother. He felt Ingo's hand holding on to the back of his shirt, tightly, as if he would disappear along with his possessions. "Ingo, where are they? Where are all my things? They're gone. They were here. This morning, when we left."
He turned around, eyes wide, searching Ingo's face for the answers to his questions but all he could see were more questions. Too much was happening at once. Emmet could feel Ingo's arms around his neck, his breath on his shoulder, tears falling onto his collar. His arms were crushed between his own chest and Ingo's as he grasped at his brother's shirt, struggling to breathe through the tears.
Then, a hand on his shoulder and another on Ingo's, tearing them apart. Again.
The first week had worn down their entire family. Emmet had been moved into the study.
The first night had been the hardest; the boys kept their parents awake as they ran back and forth between the two rooms. Each time one was caught and returned to his bed, the other would get up. Every night after that, their mother and father would take turns staying awake, walking up and down the hall to keep the boys in their own bedrooms.
They were forced into a new schedule that repeated itself, day after day. The brothers woke up alone. They ate breakfast as a family and then the boys would alternate tasks so they were not left together. After school they completed their homework in their bedrooms and then had dinner, again, as a family.
They were never alone together anymore.
Lunchtime had become a series of moments they treasured most. It was the only time that no one would stop the brothers from being together, and they would sit side by side, arms linked while they spoke as fast as they could to drag out the time they shared.
"They laughed again, Ingo."
"I know. They laughed at me too. Do you care?"
"No. Yes. I care. But I don't like it. That I care, I mean. You're my brother. I should care about you. More than what they say."
"Do they say things to you? Not just about you?"
"Bad things, Ingo. Nasty things." Ingo felt Emmet nod against his shoulder in response.
"They upset me. A lot. I want to stay home."
"At home we can't be together but here we can, at lunch."
Then the bell rang to signal the end of the period, the end of their time together, the end.
Only months into the school year, it had become painfully obvious that splitting the boys had been more detrimental to them than anyone would have guessed. They showed none of the academic potential they had displayed in entrance exams and their behaviour had become erratic at best. Ingo had withdrawn into himself, speaking to no one but Emmet and even then only in whispers, refusing to speak even in classes. Emmet had become his polar opposite, wild and unruly, smiling in the most unnerving of ways. The decision had backfired, the school and their parents had both let it carry on for far too long. They sat side by side in the office, Ingo's frown and Emmet's smile. Their parents sat behind them, their faces blank.
"But we're different now." Emmet giggled when he was questioned about the shift in his behaviour. "I am Emmet. Ingo is quiet now. It's your fault." The smile never shifted.
"What would you think if we moved you into the same class, Ingo?" He looked up but said nothing.
"It's too late. You made us different. Now Ingo is Ingo and Emmet is Emmet. You made us break our promise. You can't fix it," Emmet answered for his brother, giggling between his sing-song words.
"Why do you say that, Emmet? Surely you'd both enjoy school a little more if you were in the same class."
"Maybe. But maybe it's too late. We're different."
"But you're two different people, you know. We want to know each of you as different people, not the same."
"We want to be the same." When Ingo spoke, it was the first words anyone but Emmet had heard from him in almost three months. "You ruined everything because you're grown-ups and you think you know everything but you don't. We like being the same. We're brothers. We don't care if other people don't know which one is Ingo and which one is Emmet because we know. We get to decide if we want to be the same or different and we didn't want to be different. You made us do it."
Apologies flew around the room, principal apologising to parents, parents to principals, all the adults apologising to the boys who just sat in the middle of the chaos, silently, waiting to see what decision would be made for them next.
"How many years of school do we have left?"
"We can't leave until we're sixteen," Emmet replied. They were hiding upstairs in the school library, behind the rows of books, knees pulled up to their chests. Skipping classes had become one of the few ways they had uninterrupted moments alone. They rarely got away with it for full periods. "But then we can leave. We can travel. All around Unova. Shall we become trainers?"
"Yes. We'll leave together the day after our birthday, Emmet."
"That's four years away. It's too long. We can't hide forever."
"We can try."
"We need to learn. If we fail, we can't leave."
Ingo thought for a moment, the frown creeping back onto his face.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes. I've got an idea Emmet. It's a bad one but I can't think of anything else."
"We promise." The boys spoke together.
It was a difficult promise for them to make. They had agreed that if they were put into the same class they would try harder, make progress, and learn something new for the first time in secondary school. Emmet moved in to Ingo's class and they began to flourish again, as the adults had always secretly known they would. They calmed down and stopped skipping their classes. They handed in virtually identical papers despite being forced to sit at opposite ends of the room during tests. Their parents refused to let them share a bedroom again, although sometimes they did anyway, but at the principal's insistence they were allowed to spend more time together in the afternoons. Ingo often spoke in short, sharp sentences to eliminate one of the only major differences left between them while Emmet stopped giggling uncontrollably, although he still cried himself to sleep more often than not.
Months passed, and so did their summer break. When the brothers returned for their next school year it was difficult to see the scars left by the trauma of their separation. They were almost the same again.
Emmet looked up from the book he was reading when he heard the unfamiliar tone of panic in Ingo's voice. The brothers had developed a fascination with trains over the holidays and were slowly working their way through all the information they could find on them.
"Are you okay, Ingo?"
"My stomach, it hurts."
Ingo nodded again and Emmet's eyes went wide with fear. The book forgotten, he took Ingo by the hand and dragged him through the school to the office. They did not speak while they half ran through the halls, Ingo struggling to keep up with his brother. With the colour drained from his face, he collapsed into a chair inside the door while Emmet struggled to explain the situation.
"Ingo, he is sick. I mean, his stomach. It hurts. He feels ill. Help."
The room was much the same as he remembered it. Their parents were asleep in chairs by the window, the two brothers awake together on the hospital bed. Except this time it was Ingo, not Emmet, who was sick. It was Ingo who brushed Emmet's hair back to see if he was awake in the early hours of the morning.
"I'm okay. Just like you were okay when you had your operation."
"Ingo, we match," Emmet spoke quietly.
"We have the same scar. Now when I talk like you no one will be able to tell us apart."
"Just us." Emmet giggled and wrapped his arms around Ingo's neck, holding on tighter than was acceptable so soon after surgery. "I am Emmet, you are Ingo, we're the only ones who know."
"I have to get well first. People will know I'm Ingo until I get better."
"Then we'll be the same again. No more bad times, just good."
"Only good times," Ingo repeated. "Only good for us."
Same outfits, same hair, same wicked grins. Every movement the boys made in their gym battles were identical. The leaders could hardly tell if they were fighting different challengers or if it was the same boy challenging them twice. The only difference in their battles was the Pokémon they chose. School had been forgotten the moment they walked out of the building on their last afternoon. A week until their birthday, eight days until they left home. They hadn't needed to rethink the decision.
They travelled up and down Unova together for months before they even considered taking the gym challenge. After so many years of living under rules set down by people that didn't understand, they needed a break. Emmet had been the first to catch a Pokémon of his own – he hadn't so much caught the Joltik as it had attached itself to him and wouldn't leave. Ingo's Litwick had come to him that same week. They had two Pokémon each by the time they decided to challenge the Striaton gym; Emmet had acquired a Durant and Ingo a Klink.
Battling came as naturally as breathing to the brothers, and they beat the first three gyms with ease. Emmet would giggle with glee when passing trainers challenged them to a double battle while Ingo shook his head in disapproval at his brother's enthusiasm. The boys had remained identical as best they could, but at sixteen, minor differences were apparent to those who knew them well enough. The brothers did not mind this, because when they thought about it, they realised that they complimented each other.
"I know, Emmet."
When they arrived in Nimbasa City for their Gym challenge they didn't need to speak to know what the other was thinking. It felt right, being there. Smaller than Castelia but larger than their hometown, the city gave them a strangely comfortable feeling. It had been their favourite place after their initial visit but the return was the key and they felt their hearts leap in their chests, they felt like they were home.
"Can we eat first?"
"Pokémon Centre first, then dinner," Ingo said. Emmet frowned but fell into step beside Ingo.
"Then we can eat? Let's find the same place. The one we ate at last time."
The brothers were not short on money; they had only lost one battle a piece over the course of their journey.
"Then the Ferris Wheel."
"It was closed last time. We have to."
Emmet's grin returned wider than before and Ingo had to look away to stop himself smiling as well. They booked a room at the Centre and left their bags so they didn't need to carry them around the city. Ingo was first to notice the queue, long before Emmet. He took his brother's elbow and led him down another street.
"There's a line. We'll go back tomorrow."
"Tomorrow we battle the Gym."
"We'll go after we get our badges. It won't take us long to win."
"Are you sure?" Emmet gave a sudden burst of laughter. Ingo scowled and bumped him sideways with his shoulder. At the last Gym battle, in Castelia, Ingo had miscalculated an attack and his Klink had taken more damage than he'd been expecting. He had recovered well and won the battle with relative ease but the experience had left him a little shaken, he worried he was falling behind Emmet. The battle in Nimbasa would prove his theory. Emmet knew all about his fears and had reassured Ingo as best he knew how, telling him over and over that neither of them was better than the other. They took off their coats when they entered the small restaurant. Ingo ordered for them and they sat down, side by side so they could both see out the front window.
"You like it, don't you Ingo?"
"This city. It feels right."
"Yeah." Ingo watched as Emmet released his Joltik. The tiny creatures' fur crackled with electricity as it ran back and forth up the table. "Let's live here."
"What?" Emmet asked.
"We should live here. When we finish travelling we have to come back here to challenge the Subway as it is, we should live here."
"Can we visit it this time?"
"Yes, we'll go the day after tomorrow." Ingo coughed. "Emmet."
"Your bug is on my head. Again."
"She likes you," Emmet removed the Joltik from his brothers' head. He put her on his own shoulder and straightened out Ingo's hair. "Better?"
"Yes, thank you."
"What should we do? Tonight I mean."
"There's a lot we can do. Nimbasa is a big city, everything is open late."
"Can we watch television? At the Pokémon Centre. Just us, then." Emmet returned Joltik to her pokeball when their food arrived.
"Emmet, what are you doing?" Ingo watched his brother toss pillows to the floor, strip blankets from beds, move around the small room with a strange but determined look on his face. Emmet thought about it for a moment. What was he doing exactly? Or, how would he tell Ingo without ruining it?
"Have a shower. I already did. See?" He pointed to his hair, still damp from the water.
"I know. Keep an eye on Joltik, she's trying to attack the power outlets again. If she shocks them we won't be able to watch anything."
"I know," Emmet said to his brother. He heard the bathroom door close. "Don't." It was all he had to say to convince the bug away from the wall. He heard the shower start and began moving faster, shifting things around. Sheets went up and the television was moved from its place to the floor. Finally, Emmet searched through the pockets of the pants Ingo had left on the floor and released Litwick. "You need to be careful, okay?" he said. The ghostly fire nodded and obeyed as if Emmet were Ingo, reducing his flame to a small glow.
"Emme – what have you done?"
"I made a fort. Just like at home. If we're going to live in Nimbasa, it should be like home, but our home."
Ingo lifted one of the blankets and crawled under. Emmet had indeed put in the effort to replicate a fort they would have made at home. He'd tied the blankets to bedposts and desk legs, moved a chair into the fort to support the roof, piled in all the pillows and spare blankets. The television was sitting on the floor, a movie playing in the background.
"If we lived here, we'd live in a house Emmet." Ingo kissed the corner of Emmet's mouth and laughed against his cheek. He appreciated the effort, of course he did, but Emmet's logic was drastically flawed at times.
"We need money."
"We have money. We'll have even more when we beat all the Gyms and the Elite Four. If we only buy things we need until then I'm sure we could afford somewhere to live."
"Maybe an apartment."
"Maybe. But we have to beat the league first. I don't know how long it'll take, probably a few more months."
"We'll be seventeen then," Emmet said. Ingo finally moved to sit back on his heels.
They sat side by side, leaning back on their arms until they went numb and then some. As they had done so many nights before they just sat together in silence, not really watching the movie, just them. Emmet was the first to realise something was wrong when Ingo's head slipped from his shoulder. He shook his brother, gently, until he woke. Ingo returned Litwick to his pokeball; they weren't simply exhausted, it was his Pokémon's light sapping their energy. It was unintentional on Litwick's part but in such a small space, it was inevitable. Emmet reached forwards and turned the television off. When he collapsed back onto the pillows, Ingo managed to throw a blanket over them before he found himself unable to sit up any longer.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes. Just tired. I think we should sleep here. On the floor."
"I think so too. Tomorrow we beat the Gym and get another badge each."
"Then we move on. We travel again and collect badges. But we will come back to Nimbasa," Emmet pressed a soft kiss to Ingo's temple, "Just us."
"Just us," Ingo repeated, returning the gesture. Goodnights were exchanged in unison and the boys fell asleep with their legs and fingers entwined, their breathing in sync and Ingo indistinguishable from Emmet as Emmet reflected Ingo, identical.