Echo Lane, by Louise Wu
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** Part 4 **

Chapter 11
Friday, January 28, 2000

A smudge of color coalesces in front of me.

No dream this time. I wonder if the dream is just my brain's desperate attempt to make sense of the transition. And on the return trip you don't need it because... you already know what to expect?

I find myself standing on the street in front of our house. The shutters are blue. No planters on the front steps. Yes!

I think this transition, or whatever it is, deposits you in front of your home. So this must be my home. If Alex and Chip and Sashi are waiting for me, I'm going to be a very happy man.

At the front door, I ring the doorbell, just to be safe. I breathe easier as soon as I hear the familiar soft chimes of the bell Alex installed the day before we moved in.

The door opens and Alex's face instantly goes from curious to amazed to overjoyed. His body bounds into mine, nearly knocking us over, as he plasters himself onto me. "Sweetie, you're home." I can hear the smile in his voice.

"Fuck yes, Alex."

He steps back to look me over carefully.

"It's really me... I think." I realize I'm not totally sure I wasn't sent to some other universe. "Let's go inside."

We step into the house. Everything looks right. Neat and clean, unlike his apartment. The dogs are pawing furiously at the sliding glass door.

Alex follows the path of my eyes and lets them in.

Chip makes a beeline for me. As he gets closer, he becomes even more excited than usual. It's frightening, actually, to have 130 pounds of dog coming at me like that. But I'm excited, too, so I kneel down and he smacks into me hard, wetting my face with slobbery kisses.

Sashi greets me with an eager bark and joins the fray.

Alex gazes down at us with the most intense look of affection and pleasure. Damn, he really loves me.

I stand and break free of the dogs, to take him into my arms again. His kiss reassures me... he tastes like my Alex. I'm home. And nothing is more important than being home.

"I missed you so badly, Fox."

Sashi barks again, as if to agree.

I'm so emotional I can barely speak. "I was afraid I'd never see you again."

Alex nods frantically.

"I trust my doppelganger didn't mistreat you in any way?"

Suddenly, the joy is leached from his face.

"What is it?" I'll kill that son of a bitch. Somehow. Some way.

Alex's beautiful eyes radiate hurt. "He didn't mistreat me, but I..." He swallows hard. "I'm so sorry, Fox." His gaze drops to the carpet. "I slept with him once. Only once. I'm so sorry."

You fucked my lover, you miserable scum sucker.

I should have fucked yours then. I might have if I'd have found him. Oh, shit. Poor Alex. He was alone, too.

My hand touches his chin, urging his face up. "It's okay, Alex. I understand. Don't feel like you cheated on me... you didn't."

His lips twist into a half-hearted smile. "It's been a rough week."

"Yeah. Me, too."

"Why don't I barbecue some chicken and you can tell me all about it?"

"I'd like that, Mr. Alex." Arms around each other's waists, we head for the kitchen.

Alex's lips trail along the side of my face.

I'm home.

** End Part 4 **

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