Echo Lane, by Louise Wu
For previous parts and beautiful cover art: http://slashfactory.com/Stories/EL/EchoLane.html


** Part 3 **

Chapter 10
Friday, January 28, 2000


A bit of color forms in front of me.

I visualize Alex, Chip and Sashi enthusiastically greeting their returning Mulder. I hope he made it home.

And I find myself standing on the street in front of my apartment building on Hegal Place. I take a deep breath. Is this my reality or somebody else's?

I'm afraid to find out.

I step forward and open the building door. I lost my keys, so I can't check the mail, but I scan every detail of the tiny lobby, looking for anything out of place. There's a clump of mud on the bottom step, but mud happens.

The stairs smell that same familiar musty smell. In the hallway, the number on apartment #3 dangles from one tack, just like it should.

When I get to #42, I knock first. No one answers. I can't hear any sounds from inside. Opening my wallet, I retrieve a credit card... wish I had my lock picks. Just as I'm about to jimmy the lock, the door to #45 opens and Mrs. Haversham comes out.

"Good evening, Mr. Mulder."

"Evenin', Mrs. Haversham."

I wait for her to pass before I edge the credit card into the gap near the lock. This wouldn't work if I'd locked the deadbolt, but I rarely do.

Eventually, I get the door open. I'm tingling with excitement as I step inside. Coat rack. Leather sofa. Fish tank. Dusty pile of 'The Lone Gunmen.' It looks exactly like my apartment.

I'm home.

But wait, there are a few oddities. My desk chair is tucked too perfectly under the desk. The kitchen is tidier than I left it. Someone's even cleaned the counters. Shit, what if I'm in a third universe?

God, no. Cancerman will probably be my lover.

Wait. Don't panic. What if...?

I step to the desk and reach for Samantha's picture. There's nothing under it, but then the PC catches my eye.

I switch it on and watch the desktop appear. There's a new folder: HOT_BABES. I chuckle at my counterpart's sense of humor. Or would that be my own sense of humor?

Reading his account of his investigation, I'm oddly pleased to learn that he investigated well. The minute I see the name Gibson Praise, the pieces fall together.

Somehow Gibson did this.

He must have other abilities.

The thing that bothered me the most was how un-random the universe was that I ended up in. Someone had to know that I'd been attracted to Alex. I never told anyone, but Gibson could read my thoughts...

Thinking back to my first encounter with the boy, I remember him teasing me about having lascivious thoughts about Diana or Scully. It was Scully, but I was just trying to imagine her as a cast member on Baywatch, in one of those skimpy red bikinis. Then Alex's image popped into my head. The way he looked when I said a cool good night at his hotel room door... wishing I could trust him.

That would have given Gibson what he needed to teach me a lesson. Fuck, that child is too clever. Way too clever.

God, I hope Gibson didn't read any of the more prurient details. Yikes. Talk about contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

If he knew I was attracted to Alex and wanted to trust him, would that be enough? What else would he have to know? That Alex was attracted to me? Gibson might have encountered Alex at some point. Extrapolating, that would mean the Alex in my world is attracted to me. Or was once.

I recall grimly that I haven't been his best pal through the years. D'ya think he might not like me any more?

Fuck.

In the kitchen, I find a beer. Thanks for buying another six pack, Mulder. You're a swell houseguest.

Kicking back on my sofa, I jab at the remote and tune in the news. Not listening, I glance around the room. This is my life.

It's comfortable. Feels like I belong here.

But I miss Chip. The fish just aren't affectionate. I hope he fed them. My eyes dart to the aquarium. They're swimming nicely. The water looks clear. Too clear. He cleaned out my tank. What a nice guy. I feel like such a shit in comparison.

It's really twisted when you can't even measure up to yourself.

I pick up the phone and dial Scully.

"Scully."

"Hey, it's me. I'm back."

"Back where?"

"Um, in my own universe?"

"Mulder, if you went back there... how can you phone me?"

"No, it's me. The Mulder from this universe."

"Oh," she replies dumbly.

"Aren't you glad I'm back?"

"Of course. It seems like both of you will be happier this way. All his pining over..." Scully trails off. "Mulder, did you..."

"Yeah," my mouth opens to say 'Alex,' but I stop myself, "Krycek is his lover. Pretty crazy, huh?" But that's a lie. It's not crazy, it's... wonderful.

"I wasn't sure what to make of his deep longing for our murderer/assassin... but, on the other hand, he seemed a lot calmer than you."

I catch myself frowning... or am I pouting? Another comparison in which I fall short. And this is my Scully. "I'm funnier and more spontaneous."

"How would you know, Mulder? I'm the one who spent a week with him."

"I can just tell from his complacent lifestyle."

"I'd like to hear about your adventures... why don't you come over?"

"'Kay."

It's Friday night. I'm alone, but at least I have somewhere to go.

** End Part 3 **

Go to Part 4


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