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Through the Door - a Homin/Inception crossover fic
avarisia wrote in longleggedlove
Through the Door - a Homin/Inception crossover fic
Yunho/Changmin
PG

WARNING: The fic relies heavily on concepts from the film Inception, so people who haven't watched the movie may be completely lost.

As in the title, a Homin fic set in the Inception AU. Yunho's searching for Changmin in limbo.


~~~

He finds himself sitting in the same table at the waterfront cafe, wind off the Han River ruffling his hair. Winter is just beginning to turn into spring, and its reluctant grip is still evident in the chill of the breeze which makes the tips of his fingers and nose numb, though he cannot have been sitting here for longer than a minute, as far as he can remember.

The scene is all too familiar to him: the exact same cafe with its minimalistic decor, an alfresco area floored by raw wooden planks and bordered by a simple railing that separated it from the banks of the Han; the same people he has seen countless times, but none of whom recognise him; the same river view he has been looking at for 5 years now, the water preternaturally aquamarine and reflecting an impossibly clear cobalt sky, colours richer than reality.

He is holding a cup of soju with no memory of when or how he came to be holding it, but it is something different in the midst of familiarity. All the times he has come here, he has never found a drink in front of him. Bringing the cup to his mouth, he takes a tentative sip. It is mellow, a slow stream of warmth in his chest. Just the way he has always liked it, though he has not touched alcohol since the time...

He stands up, finding the fragment of a lost memory. He is looking for someone, that is why he is here. No one notices him, the way they don't remark that he has been here practically every day for the past 5 years. There is no point asking for the date or time; there is no point talking to anyone here. Their eyes slide past him as if he is not there, despite all he does to get their attention.

But he does not stop trying. He cannot. Not if the flicker of a hope still persists, if this world still persists. The soju adds to that hope, a slightly brighter spark amidst burgeoning darkness.

The sky turns from brilliant blue to purple, the dark shade of an aubergine, reflecting in the river's waters that are now bubbling and turning to thick frothy cream topped with cherries. The skyscrapers lining the river crumple inwards silently like origami creations, turning into giant folded cranes that float languidly into the air.

It comes effortlessly to him, the manipulation. The more unreal the environment becomes, the more likely it is to draw the attention of the projections around him, but his attempts here have never succeeded.

There is a blinding flash that bleaches the saturated colours of his surroundings. He closes his eyes, startled.

When he opens them, the sky is as perfectly azure as it was before, the river rolling gently, lapping against its walled banks, the buildings intact. This has never happened before, either.

He turns around, but the people in the cafe are still engaged in their individual activities, ignoring his presence. Their stereotyped actions are a weak mimicry of reality, and he does not need to finger the silver pendant hanging around his neck to remind himself where he is.

A random memory comes to him, and he materialises it. There is now a small chocolate cake on the table, topped with a single candle, its tiny flame wavering in the breeze. Softly, he starts to sing, “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, to you. Happy birthday to Cha-”

His throat closes up, a spasm of pain twisting his insides. It is the exact same cake he bought seven years ago, their first time at this cafe. The song he sang while looking into another’s eyes, both of them only knowing happiness and all the love in the world.

He needs to get that back. That is why he is here.

He looks up, and sees the barista frowning at him. He stares in disbelief for a few seconds, then strides over and grabs the chap's collar forcefully, dodging a punch. The barista looks furious, not any bit like the passive automatons he is accustomed to, who will never retaliate regardless of the violence he visits upon them - after all, they cannot fight what is, in their perception, a ghost.

He releases the man's collar, stunned, stepping backwards. The rest of the people in the cafe are looking at him now, and he is suddenly unsettled by their stares. He steps out of the cafe and gets swept into a horde of people rushing along the pavement, shoving and pushing. They are not looking at him, but he knows they know he is here, and they are not happy.

Something is different about today. He just needs to put a finger on it, use it to his advantage.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees a familiar face, standing on the opposite side of the road. A figure kneeling down to feed a cat, only his side profile visible. But he knows who it is.

The one he is looking for.

He fights the crowd, tries to get to the other side of the road, but it seems to get wider and wider, the people pushing him further and further away from his destination.

The stairs to an overhead bridge erupt from the pavement below him, and he starts to climb, to get over the crowd, but he gets knocked down from behind.

Distantly he hears the strains of music. No, not yet. Not when he is so close.

Ten.

He gets to his knees, pushing people off him, shrugging their grabbing hands away. He needs to get over.

Eight.

He sprints across the bridge even as it forms in front of him, spanning the ever-widening road and the people who are swarming across it. It looks like he will never get there.

Five.

Down the steps, tripping, almost falling. He is so close now.

Four.

The flood of people reaches this side of the pavement, and he loses sight of his target in the mill.

Three.

No, he shouts, stop, wait, you can't. His words echo through nothingness. If no one can hear you, how do you speak?

Two.

He sees the face appear in the crowd, confused, afraid. He is too far away, too late.

One.

He steps off the last step of the stairway and the pavement turns to water beneath his foot.

Zero.

He plunges deep into icy water, the river engulfing him once again, like so many years ago. It is as ironic an end as he can imagine, and it is always the same end.

Except this time, it is no longer another long hopeless drop into darkness.

~~~

He awakens underwater, arms flailing and hitting the sides of the tub. He pulls himself out, ripping the tube off his arm.

"Damn it, I almost had him!" he gasped, grabbing the shoulders of the suited man waiting by the tub, "I have to go back in again!" He doubles over and coughs violently, and the granite floor tiles are speckled with pink flecks, barely visible amidst the dull grey.

"You know you can't go in again," the other man states sadly, matter-of-factly. "You have reached the limit, hyung. Any more and your body won't be able to take it. You're already suffering the effects of too much use of the sedative. Five minutes a day is all you can have, now."

"Did you not hear me, Yoochun? I said, I almost had him! Five years we've been trying this, and today something changed, okay? The projections looked at me, they acknowledged my existence. And he was there, right there!" He is filled with too much adrenaline to sit down, though his bones ache and there is a wrenching knot in his gut that makes him want to throw up. He fingers the pendant around his neck, its familiar curves and weight calming him, the ragged edge where it is chipped a reassurance of reality.

There is a second weight in his trouser pocket, the vial cool against his thigh. He had added just one drop of the chemical compound to the sedative reservoir prior to entering the dream. It is the reason why the dream changed, he is sure of it. It works. He needs to try it again, and this time with a higher dose.

"I heard you. But what good will it do you to go back in again now? If you didn't get him the first time, what makes you think you will find him again?" The suited man walks into the adjoining room, where he peers at a panel of complicated monitors with multicoloured blinking lights and neon traces on green-black screens, "Look, his brain waves are nearly flat now. It was just an aberration. Get some rest, hyung. We'll try again tomorrow."

"No, you don't understand, I need to find him. He's waiting for me down there, he's afraid and alone, he needs me to save him!" He grabs the other man by the lapels of his immaculately pressed suit and shakes him hard. "He- He's calling out to me..." he sobs. The suited man holds him tight as he shudders in pain. Through the tears he sees the same face he saw in the crowd, serenely immaculate where it is nestled among white sheets that seem almost a shade of grey, the softly angular planes of his face pale and nearly lifeless.

Then there is a sharp sting in his shoulder, and he tries to pull away, but his vision narrows rapidly, and the last thing he sees is that face.

"Changmin," he mouths, disappearing into nothingness.

~~~

He is falling ever so slowly, inexorably, gravity's embrace impossible to escape. It feels like he has been falling forever.

Where is he falling from? He cannot remember.

He only knows where he is falling towards.

And that destination meets him with a soundless splash. He struggles in the dark water, his limbs cold and leaden. He sinks rapidly, as if gravity is stronger underwater.

A face floats in front of him, a face he recognises and which makes his chest clench no matter how many times he sees it. He does not know how he can love a face for five years without a soul behind the closed eyes, but he does. He loves the whole person, refuses to give up, though the one he loves lies just a hairsbreadth away from death.

The eyes of that face are not closed now. They are open, and the expression in them is all too familiar to him. It is the same expression in those same eyes he saw five years ago, disappearing into the depths of the river.

Those eyes are filled with fear and desperation.

He reaches out to the other man, but suddenly they are metres apart and being pulled ever further away from one another.

And he is drowning, water entering his mouth, nose, lungs, cutting off his air supply.

The last thing he sees is that face.

"Changmin," he mouths, disappearing into nothingness.

~~~

He blinks, and all he can see is grey, unfocused shades of unending dullness. Voices in the background.

"I'm worried about him, Jae. You know we started going along with this idea of his because we thought it might work? Well, it hasn't, and it's been 5 years. He insists that we keep trying, or more like, he keep trying, and it's killing him. It's not going to work, and he needs to see that, before he slips into limbo for good, and we have two vegetables on our hands instead of one."

"We both know how he's like, and he's not going to stop until he kills himself, or Changmin dies. Maybe it would be better for both of them if we secretly pulled the plug..."

"Don't let him hear you say that, he'll kill you!"

"That doesn't seem like a much worse fate than what's happening now. Why did we even play along with his mad idea in the first place? Bringing Changmin out of his coma by entering limbo, that's just crazy and plain impossible."

"He insists he saw him today. Min, in limbo."

"He's gone off the deep end, Yoochun. No one knows what he sees down there. He could be in lala-land for all we know. Limbo is not exactly the most stable of places."

"But- I believe him, somehow. Something about Changmin feels different today. I thought I saw his eyelid twitch."

"And I thought I saw a bird fly. Seriously, Chun, you can't be buying into this madness."

"But... it's the first time I saw him wake up with any emotion on his face. I'm worried for him, Jae. Please, talk to him."

There is long silence, punctuated finally by a sigh. "Alright, I'll try. No promises he'll listen. You know he doesn't want to talk to me after what I said the last time."

"I just need you to try."

He slips fitfully into darkness again.

~~~

He runs his hands over the sheets, feeling their coarse fibres grating against his skin. Nothing he can do about the scratchy linen here, no changing it to velvet with a thought. The silver pendant lies squarely on his chest, its weight the stark reminder of his bleak reality.

Muted sunlight is beginning to slip in through the window. The sky outside looks interminably dull, despite the presence of some sun for once.

He gets out of bed, taking nothing more than a brief glance at his reflection in the mirror as he brushes his teeth. Three days of stubble cover his upper lip and chin, and his hair is limp, unwashed, his shirt so crumpled it looks like he is wearing crepe paper. He does not give much care to what he looks like now; it is unimportant. All he knows is that there is someone waiting for him.

He fingers the vial that is still sitting in his pocket. It will work. He will find Changmin, and bring him back. Prove all of them wrong.

"Let's go, Yoochun. Hook me up," he barks, pacing briskly into the room, startling both suited men who are having their breakfast at a small table in a corner.

"Yunho, we need to talk." The suited man with long hair dyed brown stands up, walking towards him. "Chun told me you finally saw Changmin down there, and I know you want nothing more than to go back in and find him, but spare a thought for yourself, the state your body is in. You’re not going to save Min if you die from oversedation."

"At least we'll be stuck in limbo together. That's fine with me." He pulls out the PASIV case from under the bed, snapping the latches open, glaring at Yoochun when he tries to take control of the suitcase. "If you're not going to help me, Yoochun, just step aside and let me do this myself," he snaps.

"And you, Jaejoong, I have nothing to say to someone who wants to pull the plug on Min, so just get the fuck out of my apartment." He times his moment exactly, when Yoochun turns to look pleadingly at Jaejoong, to quietly tip the black vial over the sedative reservoir in the box. One drop, two, three, four, just as he was instructed. The lemon yellow liquid in the reservoir turns amber. He can only hope that Yoochun does not see the change before he pumps the sedative mix into Changmin and himself.

“Wake up, Yunho. This is the real world, not a dream, or have you gone so far you can’t tell the difference any more? Things don’t happen just because you will them to. You think that if he is really in there, if his mind has not turned to mush after 5 years, that it would have taken you so long to find him? If he really loves you, he will know you the moment you enter, and his subconscious will gravitate to you. The fact that you can’t find him, it just means he’s not there.”

“He’s there. I saw him.” He refuses to let any doubt into his thoughts. Jaejoong's always been a proponent of inception, and this is another of his mind tricks.

“Right, say I believe you. He’s there, you found him. Then why didn’t you get him out the first time? The projections were fighting your attempts to get to him. I think there’s a message there, Yunho, if you only stop to think and realise what it means. It means he doesn’t want you to find him. He wants you out of his mind.”

“I think I made it clear the first time. Get. Out. NOW.” There is a deadly edge in his voice that turns the air to ice, and both men know that there is no talking him out of it.

"Fine, kill yourself. That will make a fitting epitaph - 'He dreamed himself to death'," the older man hissed before slamming the door behind him.

"Yunho, please, don't do this," Yoochun pleads. "You know how dangerous it is, and we can't lose you, not when we've lost Changmin already."

"Who says we've lost Changmin?" he snaps, "I found him. He's just waiting down there for me." He attaches the end of a length of tubing to his arm, then pulling out another tubing and attaching it to the still figure on the bed, before reaching out to adjust some knobs on the array of devices surrounding them.

"I'm going in whether or not you agree, Chun. And this time, no kick. I'll stay under for as long as it takes to get Min out."

"But-"

"No arguments. I'm the one who calls the shots here. You're just the point-man, so do your job and follow what I tell you to do." He pulls a chair up beside the bed and settles into it.

"Wish me luck," he smiles, a terrible parody of mirth on a death mask, and hits the button in the centre of the case.

~~~

He opens his eyes, and it is the cafe once again. He cannot quite remember his name or what he is doing here, except that it feels like he has been here countless times. There is a ringing in his ears, and his skin prickles. An amber haze hangs across his vision, fading away with a few blinks.

He stares out at a sapphire sky and lapping teal waters of a river, sparkling silver and gold skyscrapers bridging the two. There is a cup of soju in his hand, and he drinks it.

The wind is cold, and numbs his nose and fingers. He wonders whether he can sit here until the numbness engulfs all of him. He does not know why, but there is an emptiness spreading within him like a canker, trying to meet the external numbness from the inside. Unless it works, this time.

Unless what works? he wonders.

A scrape of wood against wood makes him turn. A suited figure has pulled up the chair facing his, and taken a seat. There is something familiar about the man, but he can only focus on one feature at a time; his eyes keep sliding away from the man’s face, and forgets what he looks like the next second.

“What are you doing here?” the man asks. His lips do not move.

“I- I don’t know. I can’t- remember.” The cafe around them is empty, chairs lying strewn on their sides, tables cracked and rotting, broken glass littering the ground. Was it like this a moment ago?

“Wrong answer. You are Jung Yunho. Why are you here?” There is something sinister about the man that makes him want to run away.

His hand involuntary goes to his neck, tracing the string around it until he touches the carved pendant, a snake eating its own tail, the age-old symbol of infinity. The weight of the pendant feels wrong, and he doesn’t find the familiar jagged corner where the pendant is chipped. His mind sluggishly uncovers a truth.

“This- this is a dream. I’m Jung Yunho and... I’m here- I’m here to find someone.” The sky is turning from clear blue to a deep twilight, and the abundant light around them dims before brightening again. He knows that he is not responsible for this manipulation, and wonders if it is the other man.

“Who do you seek to find?” All the questions make his head hurt, and yet there is something nagging at him, something important that he needs to remember.

“I’m looking for Changmin. Shim Changmin.” A distant memory of a face, disappearing into dark waters. He can barely draw breath from the ache in his chest.

“Why are you looking for him?” The man’s tone is no longer cordial, but edged with hostility. It sounds almost resentful.

“I- I need to bring him back.”

“Back where?”

“To... the real world. To our world.”

The other man leaps out of his chair and pulls him out of his in a second, limbs moving fluidly, unnaturally swift. The face he cannot see is a handsbreadth away from his, and he can feel the heat of the man’s breath. “Wrong answer. There is no real world. This is reality.”

“No- No, this is a dream. This is limbo. I need to- save- Changmin!” He struggles to pull himself out of the other man’s grip, but his efforts seem to have no effect.

“Wrong answer again, Yunho.” He is thrown to the floor, the decaying boards splintering and cracking beneath him, wood slivers embedding themselves in his back. The man pins him to the floor with incredible strength, and his voice drips with venom. “You are not here to save anyone. That’s only what you tell yourself to feel better.”

“What- I don’t understand what you mean.” He has nowhere to run. He tries manipulation, willing the ground around him to erupt in smoke, but nothing works. The sky is slate grey behind the man’s head, and lightning flashes somewhere in its depths.

“You know very well what I mean. You just won’t admit it to yourself. Look at this.” He swept an arm to indicate the roiling sky. “You’ve messed it all up with your insistent efforts to ‘save Changmin’. We are happy here. We don’t need saving.”

He is getting more confused by the second. The sky is flickering between grey and black and blue and purple, an epileptiform array of lights streaking across clouds that appear and disappear. “I don’t-”

“You’ve buried the truth deep inside yourself, and there’s no one who can crack open your vault to make you see it. Because you are the extractor. No one else can extract your secrets. Or so you think.” He makes out a sneer on the man’s face, before his gaze slips away yet again.

“The truth is, Jung Yunho, you’re not here to find Changmin because you love him and want to be with him again. You’re really here because you need answers. You need to know what really happened 5 years ago.”

The voice is starting to sound familiar, and he tries to place it even as he struggles to comprehend what the man is saying to him. “I know what happened. I don’t need any answers from anyone, I just want to be with Min.”

Wrong answer. I’m afraid you’re out of chances.”

Excruciating pain lances through his chest. He gasps and looks down, seeing the hilt of a knife protruding from his chest, a crimson stain seeping outwards on his white shirt, warm and wet. He coughs, and the spittle that emerges is red as well.

“Who- who are you?”

An eye peers into his, an eye filled with cold contempt. He knows that eye. It stares back at him from within the mirror, every day.

“Your worst nightmare.” Now he knows why that voice is so familiar.

He is drowning in his blood, and darkness creeps in from the corners of his visual field.

I’m you.

~~~

He is floating in darkness, wondering absently about the stab wound, but he feels no pain. Distantly, he hears beeping noises and a panicked voice.

“...gave himself some new compound in addition to the sedative without me knowing - no, I have no idea what it is! Why do you think I’m calling you? And now the monitors are just going crazy, I don’t know what’s happening- DON’T TELL ME TO KEEP CALM. Get your butt down here now, Kim Junsu...”

There should be no gravity in the void where he is floating, but he feels himself being pulled downwards, deeper into cold emptiness.

~~~

The boardwalk stretches to infinity on both sides of him, a wall of innumberable identical skyscrapers lined up behind. The wooden railing separates him from the roiling waters of the Han, which are crashing against the stony banks loud enough to drown out his thoughts. The opposite bank is an identical reflection of this one, even to the detail of the person standing opposite him, the only difference being that the other man is in a suit while he is wearing a crumpled shirt and trousers.

“Back for more? A pity I can’t punch you from over here.” The man who looks exactly like him says matter-of-factly. Despite the noise from the river, his words are clearly audible, as if they had been whispered in his ear.

“Who are you? What are you doing in here? Where’s Changmin?” he yells over the rumbling waters.

“Tsk, tsk. Three points, Jung Yunho. One, you don’t get to ask the questions here. Two, you make me ashamed to be wearing your face, with the staggering extent of your ignorance and stupidity. I’m sure that if you used your brain just a little bit more instead of using it wholly to indulge in your self-immolation, you would have figured it out by now. Three, there’s no need to shout, really.”

“I don’t have time to play games with you! I need to find Changmin before-”

“Before what? Before the compound you gave him kills him?” He can hear the self-satisfied smirk in the man’s voice.

“What- How do you know about the compound? And what do you mean, kill him? It’s not going to kill him!” He grips the railings so hard his knuckles turn white. He had used the compound so readily, in desperation, without considering if it had any adverse effects.

“Unfortunately, I know a lot more than you are willing to accept. And that’s my task here. It’s to make you accept. Before it’s too late.”

“Accept what?”

“That you need to let go of Changmin. You need to stop blaming yourself for him being in this state. It is not your fault. Let him go.”

“Is Changmin there, with you? You let him go! I- I’m going to find a way to get over there, you bastard. Just you wait!” There is no sign of a bridge in either direction. He looks down at the turbulent waves, the distance between the two banks. Even if he jumps into that, he will have no chance of getting across.

He turns to the right and sprints for as long as he can, hoping a bridge will appear over the horizon.

Nothing. Panting, he looks across the river. The other Yunho is still standing there calmly, watching him, as if he is still standing where he started.

“As I’ve said, Jung Yunho. You don’t get to call the shots here. I do.”

“No you don’t,” he gasps. “It’s not even your fucking dream, it’s Changmin’s!”

“Connect the dots, Yunho. I am Changmin’s projection, I am Changmin. And he wants me to tell you to forget about him. He’s happy where he is here, with me. So let go, Yunho. Go back before it’s too late.”

“No! I want to see him, tell Changmin I need to see him. If he wants me to go, make him tell me that face to face!” His face is wet, and his voice hoarse.

“He won’t. Seriously, even if he said it straight to your face, what difference would it make? You wouldn’t be any more accepting of it.” There is a note of resignation in the other Yunho’s voice, a weariness that hints at things only this mysterious man knows. He interprets it as some conspiracy to keep his loved one away from him.

“I’ve been spending the past 5 years searching for Changmin in this limbo, and now you think you can just tell me to give up and scoot off? Who do you think you’re kidding?” He screams across the divide, not caring if it bursts his doppelganger’s eardrums.

The other Yunho is unruffled. “As you say, it’s been 5 years. He’s barely alive in the reality you come from. I can tell you for sure that even if you bring him back to that, he will not regain consciousness. His body is too weak to tolerate the shock. Even now, the so-called catalytic effect of the compound you so readily used is destroying what remains of his mind, chewing up his memories of you.”

“You’re lying. What do you know? You’re just a bloody projection. You’re not real!”

“Just because I’m not real doesn’t mean I’m wrong in this. Just go, Yunho. It’s not your fault Changmin fell in the river. Not your fault that you didn't manage to save him in time, that he ended up comatose. He wants me to tell you, he doesn’t blame you.”

There is a violent earthquake that throws both of them to the ground. Rumbling noises echo distantly, and the darkening sky is illuminated by actinic streaks of lightning.

“You need to go, Yunho. Time is running out.”

“No, I can’t just leave. It’s my last chance to find Changmin, and you’re going to lead me to him.”

The dreamscape is dissolving. The skyscrapers crumble and crash into a black nothingness that engulfs everything. The waters of the river subside, the pitch-dark ground closing up over it. Seeing his chance, he races across to where his double stands calmly. Grabbing the man by the neck, he growls, “Bring me to Changmin, now.”

“He won’t see you. It’s too late. You should have given up when you could, accept that he’s gone.”

“Where is he? I need to bring him back with me, please, I’m begging you, please just let me see him.” He is desperate now, lightning crackling overhead constantly, a sheet of arcing light across a sky that is also black nothingness. The disintegrating world shakes again as vertical bolts of raw energy connect the sky too the ground all around him. All his hair stands on end and the air hums with discharged electricity.

His double smiles sadly. “I never thought this would work. You’re much too stubborn a guy for it to, Yunho. Guess it’s time for plan B.”

“What plan B? Stop talking in riddles, damn you! Where is Changmin?” Another sizzling discharge of energy around them, the fabric of the dream fraying dangerously. If he is trapped here when it dissolves completely, he will die, there is no doubt of that.

“Right beside you.”

He stiffens and tries to turn, but there is the cold end of a muzzle on his temple, and then there is excruciating pain before he falls into emptiness. Not before he catches a glimpse of Changmin’s face, anguished, tears filling his eyes, before the face splinters and shatters, disintegrating in a pillar of pure white energy.

The last thing he hears before he wakes is, “Goodbye, Yunho, I’ll see you in another dream.” Though he cannot remember who says it, the other Yunho, or Changmin.

~~~

He wakes to a cacophony of beeping noises and shouting, an acrid odour of something burnt hanging in the air. He numbly turns and sees Yoochun, Junsu and Jaejoong crowded around Changmin’s bed.

“All clear!” Yoochun shouts, and applies defibrillator pads to Changmin’s chest. The body lifts off the bed from the discharge, bony limbs flopping lifelessly. Jaejoong is doing CPR, pushing rhythmically down on the pale bony ribcage, while Junsu holds a mask over Changmin’s face and pumps air into it.

He knows they do not need to try any further.

Changmin is dead.

He sits mutely, emptiness eating up his insides. He has really killed Changmin, for real. Ten minutes pass, but it could have been ten years. The trio finally give up on trying to resuscitate their partner who had for all intents and purposes died five years ago. Jaejoong punches the wall. Yoochun collapses into a chair. Junsu covers his face with his hands, making strangled noises.

He stands and silently walks up to Junsu, punching the man in the gut. The chemist doubles over, eyes bulging. Jaejoong and Yoochun are there in a moment, pulling him away, screaming at him, but he cannot hear what they are saying. All he hears is the roaring emptiness.

“You didn’t tell me about this,” His tone is devoid of emotion, but no less deadly. “You didn’t say, when you gave it to me, that it would kill Changmin! Why didn’t you warn me?”

Junsu gasps, trying to catch his breath. “Wh- what do you mean? What did I give to you?”

“The compound. Don’t you try to shirk responsibility for it now.”

“What compound? I haven’t seen you since last week!”

“Don’t play the fool, Junsu. You asked to meet me in secret on Monday, and you gave it to me at the Ice Bar in Hongdae. Admit it.”

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Yunho. How could I have given it to you when I was in Jeju on Monday?”

“STOP LYING!”

“Hey, hey, cool it, okay?” Jaejoong’s face is in front of his. “What compound are you talking about?”

“He used some new sedative compound today, mixed it in with our usual sedative, and gave it to Changmin,” Yoochun explained softly. His eyes stares daggers at Yunho.

“And you got this compound from Junsu, or who you thought was Junsu.” Jaejoong murmured.

“He told me it would stimulate the part of Changmin’s brain that stores memories, that it would make him remember me, so it would be easier for me to find him.... Kim Junsu, you liar!” He leaps towards the chemist, but is stopped short by Jaejoong, who punches him in the face.

“I can’t believe you, Jung Yunho. You used some compound and you didn’t even check on its background? I don’t care who gave it to you, you were the one who used it without regard for its safety.” Jaejoong spits the words like something foul-tasting.

“You- you killed Changmin.” Yoochun mutters softly.

“Yeah, stop trying to push the blame to me when I didn’t give you anything. You killed Changmin.” Junsu stares at him accusingly.

“No- I just wanted him back- I was so desperate-” He feels sick, and his head feels like it is being broken apart from the inside. The deadweight in his gut gets heavier and heavier as the three men with whom he was once friends stare at him like they have no idea who he is.

“Desperate enough to risk killing him? I thought you wanted to bring him back to consciousness, but you’ve only succeeded in doing the last thing you wanted.” Jaejoong smiles sadly, a twisted rictus on his pretty face. “Ironic, isn’t it? All the times we asked you to let go and you refused, now you’ve no choice but to. And it’s all your own doing.”

He grips his head. “No- I’m so sorry, Changmin, I didn’t mean- I just wanted-”

Jaejoong shoves him against the wall, and he feels nothing, wracked with pain from the inside. “You make me sick, Yunho. You’ve been saying those same things for the past five years, wallowing in your guilt. ‘It’s my fault! I need to get him back! I’m so sorry, Changmin!’ It’s always about you, and what you did wrong, and your stupid penance. Well, listen to this, you are the reason Changmin died, and nothing you can do now will reverse it. So live with it.”

Tears roll down his cheeks, and guttural sobs escape his throat. The loss of Changmin is worse than being shot in the head, and he wishes for a shot of sedative, but that would be letting himself off too easily. Even death would be too easy. He needs to feel the pain, to remind himself of his guilt. This is the only way he can live, to repay for his sins.

“They’re wrong, you know. It’s not your fault, because Changmin isn’t dead.” A new voice echoes in his ear, a voice that sends chills down his spine.

He opens his eyes and sees four figures standing in front of him. Behind Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu, there is another suited figure.

It is the other Yunho.

“What are you doing here?” He scrambles to his feet, backs away, senses reeling. He fingers his pendant, but it feels real. The chip at one corner is just where it is supposed to be, every angle of the jagged edge as he remembers them.

Confusion replaces anger on the faces of the trio, and they look in the direction he is shouting in, but do not seem to see the other man there. “What are you going on about now?” Jaejoong asks.

“Don’t you all see him? That man standing there?” He reaches behind him for his pistol, but it is not there. He is frantic. This is reality, so why is a dream projection appearing here?

There is only one way to know if that man is truly there. The other three stare at him as if he has gone mad when he charges towards the other Yunho, roaring in blind rage.

There is a gentle pressure against his head, and he cannot move forward any further. He looks up and sees the other man’s hand against his forehead. He is smiling darkly.

“Surprise, surprise, Jung Yunho. We meet again.”

“This- this is impossible! You can’t be here! This is not a dream!”

“This is the reality you have created for yourself, Yunho. But it is not reality. My very existence here proves it. Your totem tells you that this world is real, but I tell you that it is not. So what is real?”

“I- I don’t know anymore,” he rasps, as he feels his grip on sanity slipping. “What is happening?”

“Come with me, and I’ll show you the truth. A mutual friend of ours is waiting for you.”

He turns around, and the other three men are staring at him as if he has truly gone mad. “Why is it they cannot see you, if you’re real?”

The double smiles enigmatically. “Because you haven’t accepted that I’m real. That’s the whole point of this exercise. Come, let’s not be wasting time.” He strides out of the room, to the door, and down the stairs to street level, followed mutely by Yunho, who is still trying to puzzle out what his double just said, his guilt over killing Changmin half-forgotten.

They walk in silence for most of the way, until Yunho realises where their destination is.

“You’re bringing me to Changmin’s apartment.”

His double only smiles, remaining silent as he walks on. The man is looking around nervously, posture stiff as if expecting to be attacked, but the people on the street pay no attention to him. They reach the building where Changmin’s apartment is, or was, considering that he has not stayed there for years and it is now occupied by someone else.

“What are we doing here? There’s someone else staying in the apartment by now.” He spies the name “Lee” marked on the letterbox as they enter the building and wait for the lift.

“You’ll see soon enough.” the double murmurs, looking at his watch.

Moments later they are standing in front of the apartment door. The other Yunho tries the door, but the doorknob rattles, locked.

“This is the end of what I am supposed to do. You have the key, and it will only open if you wish it to be unlocked,” the double intones. “Remember, Yunho, that if this is reality, as you insist, then I would not be here. He is waiting for you behind the door. ” He turns and enters the elevator, leaving Yunho alone in the corridor.

~~~

He stares at the door for a long time, remembering the times he has crashed at Changmin’s place, far less frequently than they slept over at his, because his place is more spacious.

He reaches for the knob, but something stops him. There is a pervading sense of uneasiness that eats into him, and goosebumps run down his back. Something tells him to turn away, not to open this door.

But the presence of his double in this world disturbs him more, and if he can find the truth behind this door, he will open it, uneasiness be damned.

“Changmin is dead. Returning to his apartment will do you no good, Yunho.” He jumps in shock, turning to find Yoochun standing behind him.

“When did you-” Yunho almost shouts, but Yoochun has grabbed his wrist.

“Come, hyung, we need to get back. The arrangements for Changmin’s funeral need to be made. The others are waiting for you.” The point-man is insistent, and that sparks Yunho’s suspicion. It seems like an unseen force is trying to keep him from entering the apartment.

He shakes himself free of Yoochun’s grip, and reaches for the doorknob.

Another hand grabs his arm. “Are you going to run away like that? Escape from what you’ve done, and pretend it never happened, pretend that it is only a dream. I never expected you to be such a coward, Yunho.” It is Jaejoong - he has materialised out of nowhere.

“Don’t you leave us here to mop up after you, Yunho. You have to accept that your actions resulted in Changmin’s death, and live with that fact.” Junsu’s voice intones, and an arm slips around his neck. “No running away.”

He struggles against them, and part of him wants to let them pull him away. That part of him does not want to know what is behind the door, only knows that he should be punished for what he has done, that he cannot run away from it.

But there is another voice in him that calls to him now. His own double’s voice, saying, “Remember, Yunho, that if this is reality, as you insist, then I would not be here.” It works itself into his mind like a parasite. This cannot be reality, and if it is only a dream, then he needs to know why he is here.

The answer to that question is locked behind that door. He can feel it thrumming in his fingertips.

With a burst of strength, he shakes the restraining arms off him with a yell and grabs the doorknob. He shudders when the cold metal comes into contact with his skin, all his senses screaming danger. But the voice propels him, and he surges forward, turning the knob.

There is a catch, then the knob turns and the door swings inwards. As he slips in, he turns and sees the trio looking on in accusation, but not following after him.

The door closes behind him, and he finds himself trapped behind a wall of glass, looking into a hospital room.

Changmin lies in the hospital bed, eyes closed. And there is another Yunho sitting in the chair beside the bed. Something is familiar about the scene, a terrible sense of unease and guilt creeping into the fibre of his being though he does not yet know why.

A doctor walks in, and the Yunho-double stands up. His arm is in a cast, and there are cuts and bruises on his face. The doctor speaks to the double for a while, and though he cannot hear it behind the glass, the words echo in his head as if he is the one being spoken to.

“I’m afraid he’s sustained some pretty bad injury to his lumbar spine and his left leg. We’ll need to amputate the leg to save his life. And... he will very likely be paralysed from the waist down. I'm sorry...”

He crumples to his knees, the impact of the revelation no less painful than the first time he heard those words. The glass clouds over and becomes an opaque white wall as he curls into a ball on the floor, sobbing.

The truth. He has found the truth. He is truly in a dream, and that dream is his own creation.

He had buried himself in this false reality, even made his totem deceive him into believing he was in the real world. He had escaped here, locking the truth away, but still torturing himself with his guilt all this time. 5 years of dreamtime spent refusing to face the truth, submerged in a perpetual cycle of guilt.

Even here, faced with the crippling truth, he turns inwards, unable to live with the pain of having maimed the person he loved most in the world.

A coma, at least, provides the hope that it can one day be reversed. But an amputated limb, and paraplegia, those were not things he could do anything about. He had been unable to face Changmin, and had taken an overdose of sedation, slipping into an endless dream.

“Hyung,” a voice calls softly. A hand lies gently on his shaking shoulder, patting him reassuringly.

He slowly stills and looks up at the face of an angel. Those intelligent, soulful deep brown eyes look at him from a face whose angles he remembers so well, a face he wants to spend the rest of his life waking up beside.

“Ch- Changmin? How-?”

“Hush.” The younger man gathers him into his arms, holding him tight. “You’re so stupid, Jung Yunho. Do you know how long I’ve been trying to get you out of this mess?”

“It... was you?” he whispers, unable to take his eyes off the face he has been yearning for the past five years. He puts a wondering hand on Changmin’s cheek, trying to reassure himself that he is real. Then he realises that this is not real, it cannot be. It is his dream.

“I’m not an extractor, like you, hyung, I’m only an architect, so it was incredibly difficult, even with Jaejoong’s help. Your defences are pretty badass, I must say. Every time we come in we end up getting killed sooner or later by your security forces. Mostly sooner. The only way we could disable them long enough to guide you back to the truth was by using a ghost you would not accept was real.”

“The other Yunho.” The realisation hits him then. “Jaejoong. He impersonated me!” In retrospect now, all too clearly, he remembers the way that Junsu kept tapping his little finger on the tabletop when they met in the bar, a nervous tic of Jaejoong’s. “Junsu, too, that was Jaejoong as well.”

“Very good, hyung. I was starting to think the five years of dreamtime you spent here had addled your brain.” Changmin grins widely, and he smiles as well, before his mind makes another painful connection.

“No- Why did you come after me? After what I did- Your legs- It’s my fault.” He tries to pull away, but the younger man only holds him tighter.

“You idiot,” he whispers fiercely, “You think I’d spend all these months entering your dream and trying to get you out, if I blamed you for what happened? It was an accident, and I don’t blame you, so stop killing yourself for it, or I’ll have to slap some more sense into you.”

“Oh, Min, I’m so sorry, it was all my fault, I shouldn’t have drunk that night, then the accident wouldn’t have happened...” he sobs.

“It’s not your fault, so come back with me, Yunho. Losing you was far worse than losing the use of my legs. Don’t do that to me ever again.” Changmin’s eyes are bright, too bright. “So are you coming, or do I have to shoot you again?”

He laughs weakly. “Promise me... you’ll never do that to me again, either.”

“Not unless you’re being an idiot.” He thinks he can lose himself in Changmin’s half-smile for a lifetime.

Their lips meet as incandescent light engulfs them.

~~~

He is seated at the waterfront cafe, facing the river. It is summer, and the back of his neck is sticky with perspiration, the weak breeze off the river doing little to help with the heat. There is a glass of icy soda in his hand, and he sips it. Reaching across the table, he grabs the hand that is resting on the other side.

“It’s way too hot today. Want to catch a movie?” he asks.

Changmin smiles at him. “Sure, Yunho.”

He finishes his drink and stands up, the silver pendant slipping out from under his shirt, flashing in the sunlight. If you look closely, you will see the corner where it is chipped.

He bends to give Changmin a kiss on the neck, drawing a playful giggle and a return peck on his cheek, as he unlocks the wheelchair and pushes it out of the cafe, their passage unremarked by the other people in the cafe.

Overhead, the sun blazes in a sparkling cobalt sky.

~~END~~


Taking a break from my bookshop fic, apologies to those who are waiting for the next chapter!

Inception screwed up my brain, and then I had a crazy fic idea after the movie which evolved into this thanks to pavarian. Hope fans of Inception like us will like it too~ ^__^

P.S. An outline map of sorts I had to draw to help me work out the convolutions in the fic, so if you're confused, join the club XD

P.P.S. Some Inception music to add to the mood

 
 

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haha. mte. i want the dvd and the limited edition crap they will inevitably be throwing at me =_= wonder if they'll sell the totems too... XDXDXD

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