"First Impressions"
Kristen Sheley

Written: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - Monday, January 27, 2003

Word Count: Approximately 12,500 words

Background Notes: This bit of filler would scrunch in between the scene in the original BTTF, where Marty and Doc see the photograph begin to be erased on Saturday, November 5th, to the point where they see Marty's father for the first time at school, on Monday, November 7th. (It also, near the end, includes a smidge of the movie and a cut scene from the DVDs.) The pitch, or one line synopsis? Essentially, this story is about first impressions (hence the not-so-original title) -- Marty's first impressions of Doc, Doc's first impressions of Marty, Marty's first impressions of the fifties, and all that fun stuff.

I don't write vignettes all that much -- which may be obvious by the handful of stories here, when compared to my massive list on the "Fanfix" page -- and I always forget why until I find myself penning one. For "short pieces," they can take a hell of a lot of research and work! Creating little things like this, to share theories or a story that occured in between scenes of a film, are a pain in the ass. Also, a lot of the stuff that we don't see on-screen was actually in one or more of the screenplay drafts, and it's hard for me to "forget" that stuff and write something new like this. (In fact, one thing covered in this story is covered in the novelization, though I guess my spin is now on it; I didn't intentionally copy.) Or maybe it's just hell for me to write these things, since I am obsessive with details and thus find the need to repeatedly watch the scenes surrounding the gaps of time in order to incorporate proper details, and go as far as to study the photographs of the settings in the media gallary on BTTF.COM. One also listens hard for inferences and that kind of thing.

Vignettes, too, are interesting because you don't always go away with a problem resolved. You kinda drift in, do your thing based on the evidence collected and your own inspiration ideas, then move along to let the established film pick up the pieces.

With this piece, oddly enough, I found myself pondering all sorts of matters that I haven't before. Like, the last time Marty ate on Saturday. Or how late it was when he and Doc were looking at the video in the garage. Or that the Doc in 1955 seemed to use a lot more science talk than the Doc if 1985. Or why Doc and Marty didn't show up until at least the middle of the first period of the day at the high school. Strange....

Which may be why this ended up being longer than I had intended it. Typical. Once more, stuff here can be taken with a grain of salt as far as an explanation of what went on in the world of Hill Valley.

Saturday, November 5, 1955
10:53 P.M.

“It’s like... it’s like it’s been erased!”

“Erased... from existence.”

Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly stared at one another with wide eyes as the former uttered the last words. The teen gulped. This did not sound good.

“Why... why is that happening? What does it mean?”

Doc turned away from Marty and paced a couple steps across the room, still clutching the photograph. He thrust it under another lamp, tilting it close to the light. “I’m postulating a theory,” the inventor muttered. “Are your siblings older or younger than you?”

“Older. Dave’s twenty-two and Linda’s nineteen. I’m seventeen,” Marty added, unsure if this younger Doc was fully aware of that.

“Hmmmm. And when you say you ‘bumped into your parents’ -- what exactly do you mean by that? Exactly how much did you interact with them?”

Marty sighed and squirmed a little, not really looking forward to sharing the news. He had the feeling that the Doc wasn’t going to be too happy with him. “Uh, well... I saw my dad at the cafe when I first got into town.”

“Did you speak with him?”

“A little. Not much. But I followed him when he left. I didn’t mean to do anything; I just wanted to talk to him a little. I mean, how far out is that, seeing your dad when he’s your age? It blew my mind! And what I did next just happened; it was instinct.”

Doc’s eyes narrowed. “What was instinct?”

Marty sighed again, rubbing the back of his neck. “I pushed my dad outta the way of a car; I got hit instead of him. It knocked me out cold. And when I woke up, I was in my mom’s bedroom.” His face suddenly burned at that memory.

The younger scientist visibly winced. “You interacted with her, then, too?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” the teen muttered under his breath, recalling his mother’s overeager hospitality towards him. “My grandparents wanted me to stay the rest of the night; they probably figured my folks would sue ‘em for me getting hit.”

Doc’s eyes drifted back to regard the photograph. “You must have done something to alter the natural progression of events with your family -- specifically with your parents’ courtship.”

This wasn’t entirely news to the teen. “Uh... yeah, I did. My parents met when my grandfather hit my dad with the car and brought him into the house.”

“What are their names? Your parents?”

“George McFly -- and Lorraine Baines.”

“Hmmm, I think I recognize the surnames. They didn’t meet before this? Do they go to different schools?”

“No, but going to the same school doesn’t mean you know someone, Doc.”

Doc frowned but said nothing. Marty pointed to the photograph. “How long has that been going on? Since I got here this morning?”

“No. Likely it began the moment you skewed your family history, by pushing your father out of the way of the car that was supposed to hit him. I can’t see how simply time traveling would induce the fade out, unless one subscribes to the idea of predestiny, and that you were destined to run into your father and alter the course of your history.”

Marty got the gist of what he was saying, and it didn’t make him feel too hot. “Then does that mean that... effect, or whatever the hell it is, can’t be fixed? That I’m gonna get hit with it, too?”

Doc shook his head. “Not necessarily. I don’t believe that things are destined to happen, on some fixed and inevitable path. If that was so, then this photograph wouldn’t be changing because you couldn’t change history in any way. It would be impossible to do. Therefore, I believe this effect can be reversed. You simply need to introduce your parents to each other, and nature can take it’s course.”

Marty rubbed the back of his hand across his forehead, getting a headache from the whole subject. “Yeah...” he muttered. “But I thought you said I was supposed to stay in here the whole time and not see anyone?”

Doc stared at him a moment, then blinked. “Let me think about that,” he said. “In the meantime, keep this photograph on you at all times; I have no idea how rapid the rate of decay could be with your brother’s disappearing act. What time were you hit by the car?”

“This morning.”

The inventor turned around to look at a clock on the wall nearby. “More or less than twelve hours ago?”

Marty’s gaze followed Doc’s to take in the time. It was almost 11 P.M. on the nose. “Before,” he said. “The courthouse clock chimed 8:30 when I was in the town square.”

“So we could estimate that perhaps thirteen hours have passed, then, since the event occurred that set off the erasing effect,” the inventor said softly, almost to himself. “And in that time your brother lost his head. Of course, there’s no way to tell if the effect is consistent or moves at a different rate based on the changes being made to future history as we speak....”

Hearing Doc’s mutterings made Marty’s head ache worse. “Does that mean you have no idea when it’ll catch up with me?”

Doc stared at Marty a moment, saying nothing. “Essentially,” he finally decided. “The matter will require more study.” He handed the photograph back to the teen, who took the opportunity to take his own much closer look at the picture. Marty couldn’t help grimacing as he studied his brother’s fade out. But at least nothing had changed since he had last looked at it. He slipped it into the pocket of his jeans, recalling the scientist’s advice from a moment before.

“There’s also the other matter to consider, too,” Doc added. “Sending you back home. Thank God you had that flyer on you... we couldn’t have asked for anything better.” He uncrumpled the paper from his fist and quickly scanned the newspaper article that had accompanied the headline, his eyes darting back and forth with a speed that boggled Marty’s brain. He’d always found the idea of Doc being more frenetic or hyper hard to imagine, but it looked like shaving thirty years off his age had made that very scenario possible.

Thirty years, Marty realized, once more, with wonder. It’s 1955. My parents are my age. And Doc... really doesn’t know who the hell I am.

And yet he was still so very familiar to Marty -- definitely moreso than either of his parents right now! He wondered if that meant anything about his relationship with those people, if he was indeed that alienated from Mom and Dad. The thought gave him a cold, chilly feeling. Maybe it was the realization his parents were basically like strangers to him, now. Or maybe, for first time that day, he really realized how far away home was.

“How is that gonna work?” he asked when it appeared Doc had finished skimming the article. “Wouldn’t the car have to be flying to get hit by that bolt?”

“No,” Doc said. “We would simply need to create a way to conduct and collect the energy of the bolt and transfer it into the time machine.” He blinked. “Why don’t you show me the rest of that film you made? I need to know everything about the basic operation of the machine in order to plan this out.”

With all the recent excitement, Marty had almost forgotten about what they’d been doing in the garage in the first place. He nodded in agreement, but as they left the house and crossed the yard to the garage, a most disquieting memory suddenly surfaced.

Oh, God. Did I tape Doc getting shot?!

He couldn’t remember; everything had happened so fast. That the video camera had come back with him at all told him he had definitely had it in hand when he’d gotten into the DeLorean. But how much had he recorded?

Marty slid an uneasy look over at Doc as they reached the garage, swallowing hard. He’d have to warn him; it was that simple. And, better yet, maybe if he warned him, Doc could actually avoid that horrible confrontation in some way. It was worth a shot. The alternative was too depressing and grim to consider.

“Doc, listen, about that video.... There’s something on it that might be upsetting at the end.”

Doc paused to look at him, one hand on the garage door’s doorknob. “Don’t tell me,” he said -- then reconsidered. “Unless it has anything to do with the time machine that I might need to know.”

Marty frowned. “Not really, I guess. But you don’t understand, you might see--”

Doc held his hand up and shook his head violently to stop the words before they could leave the teen’s lips. “No! Not a word, Marty! I shouldn’t know too much about the future!”

This seemed like a total 180 to the teen. “What the hell, Doc? Since when? You didn’t seem to hesitate to go through that suitcase your future self packed, or checking out the tape at all in the first place, or climbing in and around the DeLorean, or asking me about the President of the U.S.--”

“Perhaps -- but that was before I knew about the potentially catastrophic event you set off in your own life. I don’t want to chance anything similar.”

Marty winced. “Catastrophic?” he repeated, more alarmed now. “Since when was it upgraded to catastrophic?”

“Well, inducing a total erasure of a human being isn’t exactly a minor incident,” Doc said. “There’s no telling what could happen if you tell me too much about my own future. What if something you said caused us to never meet, for example? Then how could you be here in the first place?”

“But what I’m gonna say won’t do that, it’ll just--”

Doc reached out and put his fingers over Marty’s lips, stopping the words dead again. “No,” he said, quite serious, his eyes boring into Marty’s with an intensity that surpassed anything the teen had seen in his friend’s face before. “Don’t tell me. Please.”

Marty closed his mouth and slowly nodded, though he knew this argument wasn’t over, yet. Not for him, anyway. “Better let me use the controls on the camera, though,” he said softly.

“Well, of course. I don’t quite know how to use that device, anyway.” Doc smiled at him, sensing that the danger had passed, then turned around to open the door and step into the garage. Marty lingered a moment outside, sighing and running a hand through his hair.

I’ll find a way to let him know about this before I leave, he promised himself. Though maybe having Doc actually see himself get blown away by the terrorists is something I want to avoid!

After Marty played the tape for Doc -- deliberately stopping it just as it reached the part where the older Doc was making his brief speech about going ahead on a “historic journey” -- the inventor asked the inevitable question.

“What happened?” he asked, gesturing to the static that filled the screen, once the video had been stopped. “How is it that you came to be thirty years in the past, instead of myself thirty years in the future? Or did I send you back in time after I went on my first trip?”

“Uh....” Marty had no idea how to answer that question, in lieu of Doc’s resistance with learning too much future knowledge. But maybe that was the best way to respond, after all. “If you don’t wanna know about your future, don’t ask.”

Doc looked taken aback by the answer, then smiled faintly. “I suppose,” he agreed, turning away from the television and looking towards the DeLorean. “What else do I need to know about the time machine? Just in the interest of sending you back home?”

Marty’s knowledge was sketchy at best; he was just lucky he knew where the plutonium fuel went in. After pointing that out to Doc, provoking the inventor to a wide-eyed inspection, the teen asked his own question. “Uh, not to be rude, but to you have anything to eat? I’m really starving.”

Doc glanced up from his examination to look at Marty, then checked his watch. He grimaced. “I had no idea it was this late. I think I’ve got some leftovers in the house if you’re not choosy. It might take a half hour to heat up.”

“You mean you can’t just nuke it? No, I guess not...” Marty muttered, realizing once more where he was.

Doc gave him the oddest look at the comment, no doubt misinterpreting the word nuke for something considerably different. The teen sighed to himself, beginning to get an idea on how different this world was from home. It was gonna be a long week.

* * *

After a very late dinner of what turned out to be the leftovers of a roast and potatoes -- a little dry for Marty’s tastes, but seeing as the last time he’d had anything to eat had been the night before at his house in 1985, he really didn’t care -- Doc took the teen on a quick tour of his home. The size and furnishings boggled his mind. He had only seen exterior photographs of the place before, in Doc’s stuff, and the most prominent picture Marty knew was a grainy newspaper snapshot of the skeletal remains after the place had burned down to the ground. He hadn’t really realized before tonight how loaded Doc’s family had been, and just how much dough his friend had gone through in making a time machine.

When they reached the upstairs, Doc showed him to a bedroom near the head of the stairs. “You can use this room during your stay,” he said, clicking on the light switch on, activating a couple lamps next to the bed. “My room’s down at the end of the hall. The restroom is two doors down, on the right.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Marty said.

“I’ll let you get some rest, now,” Doc said, looking once more at one of his watches. “We can talk more tomorrow. It’s after midnight, and I’m sure you’ve had a very... eventful day.”

You don’t know half of it, Marty thought. He hesitated a moment in the doorway of the room as the scientist turned around to go back down the stairs, no doubt intending to return to the time machine, then decided he might as well try to turn in and put this bizarre day behind him. He stepped into the bedroom and closed the door, pausing to lean against it a moment as he took in the room.

It was furnished with the same dark wood furniture and shades of red and browns and golds as the downstairs area of the house. The room was larger than Marty’s bedroom at home but smaller than any of the rooms on the first floor, containing a double bed, a rug, an armchair, wardrobe, and full length mirror. Two tables bookended the bed, each with a matching Tiffany lamp, and there was a chest at the foot of the bed, on which a folded blanket lay.

For a so-called guest room that probably saw little use -- unless Doc had a lot more visitors than he did when Marty knew him in the future -- it was pretty nice. It lacked the more personal touches that the teen had seen elsewhere in the house; there were no photographs or decorations on the walls. And when he took a few steps forward, Marty saw that there was a fine layer of dust over everything. The air, too, had a faint musty quality that one found mostly in rooms or buildings that had been shut up for a while.

Marty shrugged off his denim jacket, tossing it onto the armchair, then took a moment to sit on the edge of the bed and untie his shoes. He frowned as his fingers worked the laces, bothered by a number of thoughts and concerns. None of them really clarified themselves, though, until he had lain down on top of the covers of the bed and found himself staring up at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come. In spite of the beyond stressful events of the last day, though, it remained at bay.

Part of this was no doubt due to the long spell of time he had passed unconscious earlier in the day; he still felt wide awake. Most of it was definitely due to the thoughts spinning around in his brain. Traveling thirty years out of his own time, the problems with his parents, meeting Doc now, killing time for a week in the past.... Now that he had quiet, uninterrupted moments to really reflect, his mind wasn’t about to let him go without a fight.

His parents. Marty closed his eyes with a wince as he thought about that matter. Just the memory of waking up in his mom’s room, clad only in his underwear and t-shirt, was enough to make him feel ill. After years and years of hearing his mother go on about what a good girl she was, how girls like her had never pursued or called boys, how the teens of her children’s generation were messed up due to drugs and poor role models, it had just about blown his mind to see her in that way -- so young, and acting like one of his classmates! He wondered how she had managed to hide that little fact from her kids; when Grandpa Baines had hit George McFly, the guy had ended up half naked in her bedroom.

Only this time it wasn’t Dad... it was me! Her son! Jesus....

The experience replayed in his head without permission. Waking up disoriented. The cool touch on his face from the damp washcloth. The moment his mother had turned on the light and he saw her impossibly young face -- and then she had come over to sit on the bed next to him, her eyes staring him dead in the face with an intensity and look in them that was almost predatorial....

Marty opened his eyes with a shudder. Okay, I’m not going to think about that anymore! I’ll think about Dad, instead....

That subject wasn’t much better, though. Seeing his father being ground under the heel of Biff Tannen -- who’s bullying tactics had clearly changed little over thirty years -- brought a different kind of sickness to Marty’s gut. He had no idea that such a thing had been going on for so long. And then their was the discovery that his father apparently had a habit of spying on women undressing in their bedrooms. If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have believed it. Marty couldn’t help smiling faintly at that memory -- but then he recalled what happened next, how his father had fallen out of the tree and into the path of the oncoming car, and the smile faded. It was bringing him right back to Lorraine’s bedroom, and that was a bad thing.

New subject!

But now that this one had been stirred, Marty reached down into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out the photograph of him with his brother and sister. He looked at it a moment, studying it hard. Was it his imagination, or was more of Dave fading out, now? The tops of his shoulders? He was still a little vague as to what it all meant, but the sight filled him with dread. It was just so unnatural. He set the photograph on the nightstand, propped up against the base of the lamp, and rolled over onto his side, deliberately turning his mind away from, and putting his back to, the family matters. He’d think about Doc, instead.

It was weird how familiar the inventor seemed here, how little changed he was -- physical aging notwithstanding. Although, now, he seemed to use an awful lot more complex words and phrases to explain the simplest things, making Marty’s head spin sometimes. Not that the Doc he knew in ‘85 was much different, but he didn’t seem to do it as much; maybe it was a habit that had fallen away as he’d grown older. So far, though, the similarities far outweighed the differences when it came to the inventor, and the teen was glad. He needed something he could still relate to in this world, now, since it was so incredibly different. It was even better that the one familiar person in this time also happened to be the same one who knew the most about his unique problem. And that he seemed, after that first immediate reaction of denial, fairly open minded to the problem.

Of course, Marty had absolutely no idea what was possibly going through Doc’s head about the whole thing. He seemed to accept all the weirdness in stride, and apparently had no problem in letting this strange kid from the future stay with him while he tried to fix things. Maybe he felt guilty that his future self had created the problem. Or maybe he was just excited to have company around, especially company that had come in a time machine and proved to him less than a day later that his vision from the morning would be a success.

Marty sighed, blinking, as his mind drifted to the way he had left his friend behind -- lying shot on the cold pavement of the Twin Pines Mall parking lot. He shivered at the memory, chilled. “I won’t let that happen,” he murmured aloud. “I’ll tell him about it before I go, even if he doesn’t want to know. I won’t let him die like that!”

He had a week; surely he could find some way to impart the news to Doc over that time. Especially if he really was stuck in the house the whole time. The idea did not thrill Marty too much. If he was going to be here just a week, he wanted to see the town and the local color. He wouldn’t mind avoiding his parents, definitely, but what harm could really come if he went to the town square to look around... as long as he was dressed in something more authentic to the period, of course. It would be interesting to compare the reality of 1955 to the stories he’d heard from people about the time.

So far, Marty was thinking that the fifties were pretty overrated. They didn’t have any diet colas; there were no microwaves or cable TV or instant anything; plutonium was apparently beyond scarce; and rock and roll still looked like it hadn’t been invented yet.

The last realization made him sit up. Maybe that was yet another reason he couldn’t sleep; it was too damned quiet. He was used to hearing a lot more noise at home -- either from his own stereo, or his family, or having the small TV on in his bedroom. Too bad there wasn’t a radio in here, though the music would probably be almost worse than the silence....

My Walkman, Marty suddenly remembered, smiling. I almost forgot about that!

Unfortunately, the personal stereo wasn’t in the room with him; it was still out in the DeLorean. Shrugging, Marty pulled his shoes on again and left the room, heading downstairs. Doc was nowhere to be found, but lights were still on and the teen had the feeling he hadn’t yet gone to bed himself. The theory was proved a few minutes later as he entered the garage and found the inventor peering into the mass of circuits mounted on the back of the car, a gooseneck lamp providing the light.

Doc’s head snapped up at the sound of the door closing. He nearly dropped the small pad of paper and pencil that he had apparently been taking notes with. “Marty,” he said, after a moment, once he had recovered. “Is anything wrong?”

The teen shook his head as he walked over to the car. “No -- I just wanted to grab my Walkman. I left it behind in the DeLorean when I went into town.”

Doc blinked. “Walk man?”

“It’s, uh... like a personal radio, I guess.”

Marty circled around to the passenger door and pulled it open, finding the stereo right where he had left it, on the passenger seat. The scientist continued to stare at him for a moment more, then turned back to the rear deck of the DeLorean. Marty shut the door, then lingered in the lab, the stereo and headphones clutched in one hand. He wasn’t terribly eager to go back into the huge house alone and give sleeping another stab. Not if the same damned thoughts were going to bounce around in his head without stop.

“How are things going out here?” he asked, stalling his retreat.

“As well as they can, I suppose,” Doc muttered. “Some of these devices on the back are a bit puzzling; I’ve never seen anything like them before. I don’t suppose there are any blueprints of the machine somewhere? I looked around in the trunk, but I didn’t see any.”

“I doubt it, if they’re not in there,” Marty said. “There’s no way they could be in the car; there’s no room for anything like that.”

“I thought as much.”

Doc went back to his note taking, frowning faintly. Marty stared at him, somewhat uneasily, remembering once more the cruel twist fate had in store for his friend. The scientist seemed blessed with an impeccable talent of shutting out the distractions of the world at large when he was fully involved with something, but even he noticed Marty’s attention after a moment. He looked up again.

“Is anything wrong, kid?”

Marty opened his mouth to tell him the truth, then changed it before he could speak. Now, obviously, wasn’t a good time. Doc would probably try to cut him off before he could begin. “No, I’m fine,” he murmured. “Is there anything you need my help with now?”

“Not really. I think you’ve told me everything I need to know -- unless you’ve been holding out on me.”

Actually, I have, but it’s not really something I want to do....

Marty shook his head, though, even as his eyes drifted uneasily to the static-filled screen of the TV. “No.”

“Well, why don’t you get some sleep, then? I’ve got everything under control here; you can relax. Tomorrow we can worry about what to do with your parents.”

Marty recognized a dismissal when he heard one. “Sure. Good night, Doc. Don’t stay up all night.”

The inventor merely nodded.

Marty left the garage reluctantly and returned to the house. He ran into Doc’s current dog, Copernicus, as he stepped into the mansion. The dog whined at the sight of the teen, following him close as he headed for the stairs.

“Are you lonely, too?” Marty asked softly. “Or are you just weirded out by all the craziness today?”

The dog didn’t answer, though he did stop whimpering. He followed Marty into his room, and the teen saw no point in kicking the animal out. He liked dogs; Einstein felt almost like his own pet, too, since his mom didn’t want anything that would shed fur in the house. He left the door ajar a few inches, in case the dog wanted to leave at any point, then settled back down on the bed. Copernicus hesitated a moment, then hopped up on the covers next to him and lay down. The dog looked at him uncertainly as he did so.

Marty smiled at the dog as he slipped the headphones on. “I’m not gonna kick you out,” he promised. Copernicus lowered his head onto the bed as Marty dropped back to the pillows and pushed the play button on his Walkman. Loud, familiar music filled his ears and he smiled faintly at the sound, closing his eyes. He could almost pretend he was back home, now.

Maybe that was the trick. He stopped thinking about all the weird problems of the last day -- his parents, the time travel, Doc’s shooting -- and just concentrated on the music. It was loud and fast, but it was familiar to him, and therefore as good as a lullaby. After a few minutes, Marty found himself relaxing and, somehow, in spite of it all, he eventually fell asleep.

* * *

Emmett Brown finally finished his inspection of the rear deck of the time machine around two in the morning. He stepped away from the vehicle reluctantly, but exhaustion was beginning to nibble away at him. His eyes ached and the lump on his head was throbbing at a steady pitch. It wouldn’t be smart to push ahead, not when everything could easily wait until tomorrow.

Emmett sighed as he lowered his notebook. There was one more thing he wanted to look at before he called it a night. The portable television camera that Marty McFly had brought with him from the future, and the video footage of his successful time travel demonstration. There were a few things on there he needed to know if he was going to successfully send that kid back home next Saturday night.

Although it was Marty who had operated the controls on the camera, it took Emmett little time in figuring it out himself. The buttons were clearly marked as to their function on the side of the camera, and after rewinding the video footage to the beginning of the tape, he began to play it out. He scribbled down the important highlights in the notebook, lest he forget them later. 1.21 jigowatts... Flux Capacitor stores power... He watched the tape straight through to the end -- and was surprised when it continued past what he had seen earlier.

The version of himself, aged sixty-five, was on the screen in the doorway of the time machine, making his solemn statement to the camera. “I, Dr. Emmett Brown, am about to embark on a historic journey.” The older Emmett suddenly laughed, slapping his forehead and shaking his head. “What am I thinking of... I almost forgot to bring extra plutonium! How would I ever expect to get back? One pellet, one trip, I must be outta my mind....”

A dog started to bark, off camera -- the same animal that had previously traveled through time, no doubt. Older Emmett looked off in the direction, behind the camera. “What is it, Einie?”

The smile on the on-camera scientist’s face abruptly faded as his eyes focused on something beyond and behind the camera. His eyes widened. “Oh my God, they found me,” he said, his voice deadly serious -- and not without a trace of fear. “I don’t know how, but they found me. Run for it, Marty!”

The video abruptly stopped as the camera’s picture jerked to one side. Static once more filled the television screen.

What the hell was that about?

The thirty-five-year-old Emmett frowned, reaching up to rewind the footage. He watched the last couple moments play out once more, confused. What was it that had occurred to provoke such an adverse reaction in his future self, after such a joyous moment? Who were “they”? And why hadn’t Marty mentioned anything about it?

I shouldn’t ask; I shouldn’t know, Emmett thought, immediately feeling guilty. He had the distinct feeling he wasn’t supposed to see that part. Marty had stopped the tape before it had come up and told him that was all of the footage he had. Granted, there was nothing in that extra minute or so that was relevant to the time machine. But maybe it did have something to do with why Marty was in 1955, and Emmett’s future self was not in 2010. The kid had been vague when pressed for the reasons why he was here in the first place, beyond that it had been accidental. But, of course, Emmett had told him he didn’t want specific knowledge on his own future.

The inventor reached over and turned the television off after he had watched the footage twice, too tired to ponder it further, and knowing full well that it might be something he should leave well enough alone. There was probably a perfectly logical explanation for the reaction of his future self; he was reading into it far too much.

But he -- I -- appeared frightened... that doesn’t make sense.

Emmett sighed as he leaned away from the television, determined to keep that off his mind until at least tomorrow. He had a number of other things to consider at the moment that were far more important. There was the time machine, of course. And the situation with Marty’s family. And then there was the out-of-time kid himself.

Emmett shut down the lights in the lab and finally left for the house, once he had locked the doors tightly behind him. There was a time machine out there, now, and even though it wasn’t about to go anywhere, he couldn’t help feeling a little bit paranoid as he crossed the lawn to the house. His mind went back to the video once more, and the look of fear on the face of his future self. What if there was someone else who had seen the time machine, or knew about it here? But Marty hadn’t mentioned anything of the sort. The kid had reacted rather responsibly once he had realized where he was, hiding the vehicle. It hadn’t appeared that anyone had come across it during his hours away from it, and if it had, Marty hadn’t mentioned it.

After shutting off the lights in the downstairs rooms of the house, and making sure that the fire in his study’s hearth was out, Emmett headed upstairs. He was surprised to see the door to Marty’s room ajar, light spilling out of it from within. He poked his head inside, opening his mouth to ask if everything was all right. The breath drawn was let out in a sigh, though, when he saw the kid was curled up on top of the bed. Marty’s arm was partially blocking his face from Emmett’s view, but the inventor saw enough to determine that he was finally sleeping, in spite of the blazing lamps in the room. Next to his side lay Copernicus. The dog raised his head at the sight of his owner, his tail twitching in a halfhearted wag.

Emmett smiled, stepping quietly into the room. “Does he know you’re in here?” he whispered to the dog. He wasn’t sure if Marty would mind such a thing, but he barely knew the kid. His eyes flicked over to the other form on the bed, but Marty didn’t seem to be aware of much of anything; he was snoring softly. Feeling slightly emboldened by his apparent deep slumber, Emmett continued to stare at him, thinking.

Marty McFly...

To say that he had been surprised when the kid had showed up that evening at his doorstep was an understatement. He hadn’t ever imagined anything so fantastic, and his was a mind that had visualized a lot of unrealistic and fantastic things! But a seventeen-year-old time traveler from the future was never one of them. Equally surprising to him was that this kid was apparently a friend of his. What a sixty-five-year-old was doing hanging out with someone so young, Emmett could only wonder. Maybe Marty was a student of his, from the University.

Except he’s not quite old enough for college, and I don’t think his talents lie in the realm of physics and sciences, Emmett mused, recalling his few hours of observation and interaction with Marty. Well, there was no doubt a good reason that they were aquatinted. And whatever reason it was, it was clear they knew each other well. Marty’s habit of calling him “Doc,” spoke strongly about that. No one called him that; it was either Dr. Brown, Emmett, or simply Brown. (And that was when people were being polite; he’d heard other things said that were decidedly less kind.) Then there was the fact that Emmett couldn’t imagine why he would invite Marty out for his time machine demonstration unless he was close to the young man. Which brought up another related matter.

Why is a kid like him hanging around with a guy like me?

Aside from the students in his classes at the University, he really had no contact with the youth of Hill Valley. None of his students had ever seemed even remotely interested in spending time with him -- not unless there was a boost in it for them with their grade or GPA. His peers on the faculty would treat him with the degree of respect and civility required for people in their profession, but often times he found himself uninvited to the BBQs and dinners that they would throw in their private homes. If not for the fact that Marty’s parents were apparently high school students right now, he would’ve suspected that perhaps one of them would someday work with him, and that would be how he knew the young man.

Of course, if I was friends with either of his parents, it still doesn’t quite explain why he was the one invited to the time machine demonstration over either of them.

Emmett decided to stop thinking about that. He could always just ask the kid, point blank -- but he also knew that would be the one thing he shouldn’t do. If they had become friends on their own somehow, in part due to a random encounter or situation, he didn’t dare want to know for fear of accidentally altering that event when it did come to pass in it’s own good time. The inventor rather regretted his earlier, rash behavior at going through his someday belongings; it might be more dangerous to know personal specifics than it would be to know vague, worldwide news -- such as an actor becoming president of the United States. Marty’s situation with his parents was all the confirmation he needed on that suspicion.

Emmett shook his head once to scatter the thoughts in his head and reached for the folded blanket on the chest at the foot of the bed. He gave it a quick shake -- stirring up a small cloud of dust -- and covered the snoozing kid with it. As he leaned forward over the bed, tucking the blanket around Marty’s shoulders, he heard a faint, rhythmic noise, almost tinny in nature. He looked at Marty with a frown -- and only then noticed the small black headphones clipped over his ears. A thin cord trailed from them to a small, rectangular device, perhaps half the size of a book, lying on the bedspread a few inches from the kid’s hands. Emmett recalled only then that Marty had grabbed something out of the car a couple hours earlier -- a “Walkman.” This had to be it; certainly he had never seen anything like it before in his time.

And the noise was apparently from whatever music Marty was listening to. It was on considerably loud if Emmett could hear snatches of it from a foot away, and sounded like nothing he had ever heard before. At least nothing that was supposed to be music. Curious. He sighed, amazed anyone could actually sleep through something like that -- and then noticed the photograph of the McFly siblings on the bedside table, under the lamp. He picked it up to study, curious to see if it had changed in the last couple hours. It took a just moment of examination before he realized something had, subtlety; the shoulders of the older boy in the photograph, Marty’s brother, were beginning to fuzz up. They had been crystal clear a few hours ago.

“The effect is still in play,” Emmett murmured softly, concerned. He took a couple steps away from the bedside, thinking. Marty had obviously interfered with his parents meeting one another, and subsequently falling in love, marrying, and having kids. Logic would suggest that he simply needed to introduce them, now, and this problem would solve itself. It puzzled him that their kids were even fading out at all, though; Hill Valley wasn’t exactly a large metropolis, and most people seemed to know one another or run into one another. It would be reasonable to assume that Lorraine and George would simply see each other at a later date and nature would then take it’s course.

Oh, well. Maybe one of them left town after high school and never returned. It’s difficult to theorize without knowing all the facts.

Emmett replaced the picture where he had found it and turned off the lamp. “C’mon, Copernicus,” he said softly as he circled the foot of the bed. “Let’s go to bed.”

The dog looked at him, clearly reluctant to leave where he was right then. Emmett smiled at his pet as he clicked the other lamp off, snuffing the room into almost total darkness. Only the light out in the hallway, falling through the open door, provided any illumination.

“Come on,” he murmured. “Let’s leave Marty alone, now. He’s had a very long, stressful day.”

Copernicus whined softly. When he saw Emmett was unmoved, however, the dog sighed a doggy sigh and climbed up to his feet. He jumped off the bed and trotted to the open door, Emmett following his footsteps. The scientist paused as he reached for the doorknob to pull the door shut, glancing back at the still lump on the bed.

This is going to be a very interesting week, Emmett thought with some excitement -- and then the sensation of guilt hit him. His good fortune was not shared by Marty, who was in a rather unenviable position. He sighed as he closed the door, looking down at his dog, waiting in the hallway.

“We’ll get him home,” he said softly, with a quiet confidence. “It’s just a pity I’ll have to wait about thirty years to see the results of that experiment.”

Sunday, November 6, 1955
8:13 A.M.

Marty was standing in the mall parking lot, watching in horror as the terrorists stopped their van and aimed a machine gun at Doc. He tried to yell, tried to move, but seemed temporarily paralyzed by the sight.

The terrorist smiled as he cornered his prey. Doc froze, slowly raising his hands and tossing the gun in his hand away, out of the bright beams of the headlights.

“Doc,” Marty managed to whisper, the word coming out in a gasp.

Doc’s eyes were wide, meeting the terrorist’s gaze unflinchingly. The foreigner bared his teeth in a satisfied grin -- and then shot the inventor in a barrage of bullets. Doc screamed as he was thrown back, but by the time he hit the pavement he was silent. And didn’t move.

“No!” Marty yelled, finding his voice. “Bastards!”

The terrorist swung the gun over in his direction, no doubt intending to finish the job by leaving no witnesses to the crime. Marty broke his paralysis to run, intending to circle the stepvan and check on Doc and see if there was anything he could do. The terrorists anticipated his move and cut him off before he could go more than ten feet, aiming the gun at him. He was trapped, just like Doc, with nowhere to immediately go. He squeezed his eyes shut, unwilling to see any more.

I’m gonna die. Shit.

And then he heard the Libyan curses ring out in the night. Marty opened his eyes to see the terrorist shaking his gun, which had clearly jammed. He had a chance, now! He turned and dove for the open door of the DeLorean. As he scrambled to slam the door shut, his eyes fell on Doc’s legs, the only part of him visible from that perspective, and he froze, undecided. He couldn’t abandon his friend, now! Not unless he was really...

Dead. No!

He started to get out of the car, then was forced to abandon that plan when he heard the van’s engine roar. It was coming after him again. He slammed the door shut, started the car, and floored it. The DeLorean responded without a hitch, whipping him back into the seat as it surged forward.

Staying alive suddenly became his main priority. He drove around the parking lot as fast as he dared, weaving around the gunfire aimed his way from the angry terrorists -- and then, suddenly, the car’s time travel enhancement kicked in.

There were three flashes of blinding light -- and then he was driving across the parking lot again, but it seemed later. There was a fog choking the air, and the terrorists seemed to be gone. Doc’s van was still around, though. Marty slammed the breaks on and stopped the DeLorean nearby. He leapt out and ran over to the still form of the inventor sprawled on the pavement.

“Doc!” he called, almost tripping in his haste to get to his friend. “Doc?”

Doc didn’t move. Marty skidded to a halt and fell to his knees on the ground beside his friend. He reached out to touch him, to roll him onto his back. His fingers recoiled after a second, at the strange hardness to Doc’s shoulder. He swallowed hard, unnerved, but quickly turned him to his back. His face. He had to see, to make sure.

Doc’s head rolled back with a rag doll sort of limpness. His eyes were wide open, and for a moment Marty felt relief -- until he noticed they were vacant and unblinking, staring up into the night sky, fixed on something beyond the teen’s grasp. Hand trembling, Marty reached out to touch his neck, to feel for a pulse. Even through the radiation suit gloves, he could tell that the skin was as cold as the pavement under his knees. He jerked his hand away, knowing the truth, now.

“No,” he moaned softly, his eyes beginning to burn with tears. “No, Doc! No, dammit!”

He lowered his face to his friend’s chest and began to weep. This can’t be happening. This has gotta be a dream. A bad dream. A--


At the sound of his own voice gasping the word out, Marty woke with a jerk, his head snapping up from the pillow, a cold sweat chilling his skin and clothes. For a moment, he had absolutely no idea where he was. The room and furnishings were unfamiliar, and a disorientation from the vivid dream muddled his mind. After a moment, though, things fell into place, and he remembered. He wasn’t at home, or anywhere near it. He was in 1955, staying with the younger version of Doc Brown for at least the next week.

Marty let out a shuddery sigh, dragging the back of his hand across his damp forehead. His heart was still skipping unevenly from the dream, and he felt faintly ill. The image of Doc’s blank stare from the pavement replayed in his head and he shivered.

Just a hell of a dream, he reminded himself firmly.

It was morning, now; light from an overcast sky was falling through the windows. There was a clock next to the bed, displaying the time as about a quarter after eight. Marty sighed again as he saw the hour; if not for the nightmare, he might’ve rolled over and given sleep another try. Eight was too early, considering he hadn’t fallen asleep until well after midnight. But the memory of the dream was more than enough to encourage him to get up now.

As he slipped off his headphones from where they had fallen down, around his neck, Marty noticed that someone had been by since he had crashed. The door to his room was now closed, the lamps were both off, Copernicus was gone, and the blanket that had previously been on top of the chest was now covering him. Doc, no doubt, had probably checked on him before retiring for the night.

Marty sat up and tossed the blanket aside, chilled from the sweat that still clung to his skin from the wicked dream. He set his headphones and Walkman aside, on the bedside table next to the clock, and picked up the snapshot for a look. Dave’s shoulders were half gone. Marty grimaced as he got to his feet, not pleased with the development.

God, I hope Doc has some clue on how to fix this....

He left his room, uncertain if the inventor was even awake yet. A moment later he got his answer; he could smell breakfast cooking and hear faint movement from downstairs. Before joining Doc, Marty made a quick stop at the bathroom down the hall. He couldn’t help staring at himself in the mirror for a moment, making a face at what he saw. His hair was sticking up in a number of weird and crazy angles, and there was a pale, hollow cast to his face -- no doubt due to stress or maybe that unsavory dream.

Just thinking about that brought it all back. Marty closed his eyes a moment with a wince, remembering what he had seen, the feel of the night air on his skin, the choking feeling around his throat when he saw that Doc was no more. It had seemed so real.

Jesus. That could happen. That probably will happen if I don’t warn him before I go....

Before leaving the bathroom, he took a moment to splash cold water on his face in the hopes of clearing out the last of the nightmare from his head. It didn’t work so well, but Marty couldn’t really think of anything that would, really.

He found Doc downstairs in the kitchen, eating what looked like scrambled eggs and French toast. The inventor looked up from the table as Marty arrived in the doorway. “Good morning,” he said cheerfully. “Did you sleep well?”

The terrible nightmare once more popped into his head. Marty struggled to push it out of the forefront of his mind. “Fine,” he murmured. “You didn’t stay up all night, did you?”

Doc shook his head once. “Nope. I got up about half an hour ago. Help yourself to some breakfast,” he added, waving a fork towards the stove, where the rest of the food was still residing on pans and skillets. “I made a little more than I usually do.”

Marty did as he suggested, though he wasn’t particularly starving at the moment. He noticed Doc staring at him a little oddly as he sat down at the table.

“What is it?”

“Nothing, I suppose. I just.... Did you sleep in your clothes on purpose?”

That was a really weird question. “What do you mean? What else was I supposed to sleep in?”

“Well, do people still use pajamas in the future? Or do everyday clothes fulfill all types of occasions?”

Marty smiled, faintly. “There’s still pajamas in the future,” he said. “I just don’t use ‘em all that much. And I don’t have any, here. It’s not like I thought I was gonna go anywhere when I met you at the parking lot.”

“Yes, I’ve gathered.” Doc set down his fork. “Speaking of clothes -- we’ve got to get you some to wear this week.”

The teen looked at him in surprise. “I thought I was supposed to stay in here the whole time? Not look at anything or see anyone?”

Doc sighed. “That would be the ideal situation. But after thinking about it last night, I don’t think we can do that. Your parents need to be introduced to one another; you’re going to have to go to school tomorrow and do just that.”

Marty made a face. “School? Jeez, Doc, why? It’s bad enough going there when I have to.”

“Well, it’s the only subtle way I can think of going about introducing two teenaged people to each other. Unless you know of them frequenting another area.”

“Not really.... So I’m just supposed to go there tomorrow and drag them together? Do you think it’ll be enough?”

“I can’t think of why it wouldn’t be. You interfered with your parents original first meeting. I find it a little odd that they wouldn’t have met otherwise, later, at another time, but who knows what else has changed due to the missed encounter? So long as you introduce them, the sparks should fly and the picture will restore itself, and you’ll be out of danger erasing yourself from existence.”

Marty thought about his parents and frowned. “What if the sparks don’t fly? No offense, Doc, but it’s not like you’re talking about two people who are really compatible. I’ve never gotten what it was that my parents saw in each other.... Dad’s a wimp who can’t even say the word ‘no’, and Mom’s spent most of her life trying to wiggle out of reality by hitting the bottle.”

Doc blinked, clearly taken aback by this news. “Really? Well, maybe they’re quite different, now. Thirty years is a long time. You never mentioned this earlier....”

Marty snorted softly, looking down at his plate of food and separating a corner of the French toast for his fork. “There was a hell of a lot of other things that seemed more important last night,” he said, popping the bite into his mouth.

The inventor conceded the point. “It doesn’t sound as if your family life was very pleasant,” he said tentatively.

The teen lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “Coulda been worse. At least my parents weren’t breathing down my neck all the time. Dad bugged me more than Mom, though. He always let Biff Tannen walk all over him. The asshole wrecked Dad’s car the night I left, and I was supposed to use that Saturday night to go to the lake with Jennifer. We’d been planning that for weeks.”

“Jennifer?” Doc asked.

“My girlfriend. Jennifer Parker.”

“Ah, yes. And your mother, I assume, didn’t mind this?”

“She had her own problems, like I said. Even my brother and sister are heading nowhere. I try to be home as little as possible, honestly.”

“Where do you go?”

“Your place, mostly. At least you never let me down....” Marty’s voice faded as he recalled the nightmare again, and the way he had left Doc behind in his haste to escape the terrorists.

...But I let you down, dammit. I left you to die!

“Well, I’ll try not to do that here, either,” Doc said, misinterpreting his pained expression for something entirely different. He smiled at Marty, the expression confident. “You’ll get back home, I promise you.”

The teen blinked, dragging his thoughts back to the present. “Did you figure out everything last night?”

“I’m still working on it,” the inventor admitted. He stood from the table and took his plate to the sink. “I’m going to need your sizes for some clothes. I’ll get you enough for this week, at least.”

Marty frowned. “Can’t I go with you?”

“In those clothes? No. And nothing I have will fit you. Even if it did, I don’t want you leaving the house.”

“Whoa, wait -- I thought you said I had to go to school tomorrow? Aren’t I gonna have to leave the house then?”

“Yes -- but I would prefer to have you interact with as few people as possible until then. We don’t need any more problems, wouldn’t you agree?”

Marty was certainly not going to argue against that.

* * *

After breakfast, Marty gave Doc his sizes and specifications, and the inventor drove off to get him some authentic attire for the period. Having Doc do the shopping made the teen a little nervous; their tastes weren’t exactly similar, and the fifties had a lot of bizarre fashions all their own that he didn’t want to personally deal with. He just hoped he wasn’t going to be forced into wearing anything that made him too uncomfortable.

Before leaving, Doc made him promise to stay on the property, and not answer the telephone or the door should anyone come calling. “No telling what problems that could cause,” he said when Marty had asked him if he wasn’t being a little paranoid, now. “What if you delayed someone long enough so that they were hit by a bus? Or missed an important appointment?”

“But if I wasn’t here, you’d be home now, wouldn’t you? And couldn’t that do something?”

Marty had been pleased with his question, thinking it was quite reasonable, but Doc dodged it. “Just ignore everything. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Left alone with only Copernicus for company, for an indefinite amount of time, Marty wasn’t quite sure what to do. He wandered around the mansion, poking his head into rooms, but that felt a little too much like snooping. He tried the television in Doc’s study, but the few shows that were on at that hour of the morning were unfamiliar and looked painfully boring. He found a radio in the formal living room at the front of the house, but all the stations were broadcasting stuff he had absolutely no interest in hearing -- Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Doris Day.... Finally, curious to see the current events, Marty checked out the Sunday paper in the kitchen. The entertainment value of that was about two minutes; it was weird seeing headlines for things he considered old news, or knew what the end result would be.

Finally, thoroughly bored and suddenly, perversely, glad that he had an excuse for going out tomorrow, Marty flopped down on the couch in the study and examined the fading photograph. He was still there when Doc returned, several shopping bags tucked under each arm, a couple hours after his departure.

“Anything happen while I was gone?” he asked the teen.

Marty shook his head as he sat up, still clutching the picture. “Nope. Not a damned thing.” He eyed the bags as Doc set them down on the couch. “Did you have any problems finding stuff for me to wear?”

“Not at all. I also picked up some toiletry items for you -- shampoo, a toothbrush, that sort of thing. Did you want to wash up and change, now? It’s probably better if you begin to wear these clothes now, in case there are any unexpected visitors.”

“I... I guess so.”

Marty was almost scared to see what some of the clothes looked like, but he picked up the bags and hauled them up to his room, resisting an inspection before Doc’s eyes on the chance he happened to have a bad reaction and offended his friend. It was no small job unpacking things; all the clothes were boxed and bundled in tissue paper, even the socks and underwear and toiletry items. Seemed like a waste to Marty. After a few minutes his bed was covered with pieces of the packaging.

When all was out and exposed, Marty supposed it could’ve been much worse. Doc had clearly stuck on a slightly conservative bent, with button down shirts, some t-shirts, and several pairs of plain colored slacks, including a pair of jeans. There were a couple pairs of shoes, including some black Converses. No scary plaids or frighteningly bright patterns and colors. Marty grabbed a few articles of clothing, shoved them into one of the empty shopping bags, then headed for the bathroom to take a shower and change.

He was standing at the bathroom mirror in his new clothes, combing his wet hair back, when Doc checked up on him again. “Everything fit?” he asked.

“Pretty much. I guess this stuff isn’t too bad....” Marty turned away from the mirror to see Doc frowning at him from the doorway. “What is it?”

“Well... you’re not quite wearing those right. It’s customary to tuck in your t-shirt, button up the shirt over that, and tuck that in, too. And you might want to put on one of the belts I bought.”

“Oh,” Marty said, slightly disappointed. “All right.”

As he took care of those minor details, Doc added, “I suppose the fashions have clearly changed in the last thirty years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wear suspenders with blue jeans before.”

“Just wait ‘til the eighties,” Marty said. “There’ll be a lot of weird things you’ll see that decade. Actually, the sixties and seventies are pretty bad, too. How’s this?”

Doc looked him over again. “Better,” he said.

“So what exactly am I suppose to do tomorrow?” Marty asked as he left the bathroom, Doc following him down the hall. “Go to school and introduce Mom and Dad to each other? They barely know me, Doc....”

“Essentially,” the inventor said. “And I imagine they might remember you with a little prodding, since they saw you yesterday, right? And I can’t imagine your father would forget someone who pushed him out of the way of a car, or your mother would neglect to remember a kid who was brought into her house after her father hit him with the car.”

“Yeah... Does this mean I have to go to class, too, and actually sit through them?” Marty couldn’t imagine anything more dull -- and he suddenly had an idea on how to discourage the inventor from making him do that. “Going to class could mess things up, you know, since then I’d be interacting with a lot more people, and the teachers would notice someone extra in there....”

Doc pursed his lips together. “Let’s hope it won’t come to that,” he said. “Tomorrow you’ll go to school, and you can introduce your parents. Hopefully, nature and destiny will take it’s course and you can be out of there by lunchtime.”

“What if that doesn’t happen?” Marty asked, again.

“Well, we can’t send you home for a week. I’ll work on the time machine; you can work on your folks.”

* * *

Sunday passed rather painlessly. Most of the day was spent out in the garage, Doc pumping Marty for information about a number of things on the time machine, specifically what they were for and was it going to be necessary for him to know when plotting his return home. The teen tried to answer all the questions he could, but his understanding and knowledge of the DeLorean amounted to about as much as Doc had told him at home, when he was showing off his new toy for the video camera. The younger Doc didn’t seem to mind; he was more than content to look everything over himself.

By the evening Marty had grown rather quiet, his mind inexplicably drawn to the someday-shooting of Doc -- a matter not able to be forgotten between Doc checking the video footage periodically and being in and around the DeLorean again. It kept bringing back his memories and his nightmare with frightening clarity. If Doc sensed anything was amiss, he didn’t ask. Marty couldn’t figure out whether or not that bugged him.

Around eleven, Doc insisted that they call it a night. High school in 1955 apparently began at the same time it did in 1985 -- 8:20 A.M. Thus, Doc figured Marty should get up no later than 7:30 to arrive on time. Marty carefully set the alarm clock in his room for the specified time before going to bed.

Sleep didn’t come any easier than it had the first night. His mind would drift between the bad dream from the night before, the very real possibility of Doc’s death, the possible “what ifs” with his parents, and the photograph -- which had lost a little more of Dave by the time he had gone to bed. Even listening to music from home on his Walkman didn’t help too much; Marty played almost the entire tape before his eyelids started to feel remotely heavy. He finally fell asleep around four A.M., sufficiently exhausted from fighting the memories and thoughts he didn’t want to ponder.

He was in the middle of a dream where he was in Lorraine’s room again, and having a tug of war with her over his pants when the alarm clock went off. Without bothering to open his eyes, on a kind of autopilot, Marty reached out towards the source of the disturbance and fumbled around for the switch to shut the blasted thing off. Once silence was blessedly restored, he rolled over and buried his face back in the pillow. He needed a minute to wake up....

Perhaps too used to the snooze button on his clock radio at home, Marty was asleep again before that minute was up.

The next thing he knew, someone was gently shaking him.



Doc’s voice came once more, his tone brisk. “Marty, wake up. It’s eight o’ clock. You’re going to be late.”

Panic didn’t immediately set in; Marty was still half asleep, too groggy to understand. “Huh? For what...?”

“For school! Remember? It starts in twenty minutes! You’ve got to find your parents and introduce them to each other!”

Marty opened his eyes as the words finally penetrated his head. “Oh, shit,” he said, sitting up, abruptly wide awake. “I overslept!”

Doc was standing next to the bed, fully dressed, and definitely worried. “I thought I heard your alarm clock go off earlier,” he said as Marty threw the blankets back and scrambled out of bed.

“It did -- I think. I probably shut it off... they don’t have snooze buttons now, do they? Damn!”

Doc watched the teen as he stopped in the middle of the room, running his hands through his hair in a kind of frantic frustration. He needed to get dressed. And then... what? Run to school? If there was a bus, he had definitely missed it. “Shit... this was easier at home!”

“At home?” Doc asked. “Were you in the habit of oversleeping frequently on school days there?”

“Uh, well, yeah. But then I could just get to school on my skateboard pretty quick.”

“I’ll drive you today,” Doc said as Marty finally went over to the stack of fifties clothes, piled on the chest at the foot of the bed, and quickly sorted through them for something to wear. “It won’t be the end of the world if you arrive after the first class of the day. It’s not as if you’ll be found tardy, after all.”

Marty nodded once. “Yeah. Unless they decide to kick me off the campus because I’m not registered there.”

“Well... I’ll go in with you. If anyone asks, I’m your guardian there to register you.” He watched as Marty pulled on a shirt over the white tank top t-shirt he had slept in. “Do you have a pseudonym to go by? You can’t use your real name, not with a surname like McFly.”

“My mom thinks I’m Calvin Klein,” Marty said, quickly buttoning the shirt.


“This fashion guy in the future.... She saw the name on my underwear and I just went with it.”

“She -- how on earth did your mother see your underwear?”

Marty grabbed a pair of light brown tweedy pants from the chest top. “Someone stripped me when I was in her room... and they saw the name stitched on the elastic. Can I have some privacy, Doc?” he had to add, not entirely comfortable shucking off the borrowed pajama bottoms before his friend.

Doc blinked. “Oh, certainly. I’ll be downstairs if you need me.”

Once Doc left, it only took Marty a couple minutes to finish changing. He took a quick glance at himself in the mirror as he pulled on the fifties jacket, making sure his shirts were both tucked in and buttoned. Satisfied as he could be in clothes that felt a little too nice for school wear, Marty left his room and hurried downstairs to meet Doc. The inventor frowned as he looked him over.

“Something’s not right...” he said.

“What? I got the shirts tucked in, and the belt. I’m even wearing these stiff as hell shoes. What’s wrong now?”

Doc frowned as he scanned him from head to toe again. “Your hair,” he said. “It doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve seen on the kids’ today. Did you find the styling gel I bought you?”

“Yeah, but... Jeez, Doc. That stuff’s nasty. I’ll probably give you cancer in about thirty years!”

“Not if you use it for just a couple days. You’ll want to blend in as carefully as possible, Marty. You can wash it out when you come back here.”

Marty wasn’t pleased, but he went back upstairs to retrieve the canister that Doc had spoken about -- and which he had tossed back into the bag, hoping to skip using it. Not sure what, exactly, the scientist wanted him to do with his hair, he brought it downstairs with the comb to the bathroom adjacent to the study. Doc followed him to stand in the doorway and give direction.

“Just slick it back,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve seen what the contemporaries are doing.”

Marty drew his lip back in a curl of disgust as he dug his fingers into the grease and smeared it on his hair. It reminded him way too much of his father’s hair habits back home. “This is disgusting.”

“And flammable -- try to avoid anything with an open flame.”

“Oh, great.”

Marty finished greasing his hair and combed it back, off his forehead. “There,” he said, when he had done the dirty deed. “Satisfied?”

“It’ll do,” Doc approved.

They were on their way out the door when Marty remembered something important. “Shit, I almost forgot,” he breathed. “Just a sec.” Before Doc could react and ask, he ran upstairs to his room and snatched the photograph up from the bedside table, stuffing it into his shirt pocket without taking a second to check the progress.

As they drove to the high school in the inventor’s Packard -- a classic car that looked so unnervingly brand new, Marty couldn’t help gawking a little -- another matter occurred to the teen for the first time. “Aren’t you gonna get in trouble for doing this?” he asked when they were a block from the school “I mean, don’t you have a job you have to be at this week?”

“No,” Doc said. “Not right now. I took the fall semester off to work on some projects.”

“So you teach?” Now that he thought about it, Marty remembered his friend mentioning that to him before, back home.

“Yep. At the University. Physics and other sciences.” Doc slid his eyes over to regard Marty as he pulled up next to the curb before the school and shut the car off. “Didn’t you know that?”

“I guess I did. But you weren’t doing that anymore when I met you.”

“And when was that?”

The question surprised Marty, considering Doc’s supposed reluctance to know anything about his future. He glanced at his friend. “A couple years ago,” he said, purposely vague. “If you wanna hear that whole story....”

Doc grimaced. “No, thanks. I shouldn’t have even asked that much.”

“Well....” Marty changed the subject. “I guess it’s lucky that you don’t have to do anything else this week; I don’t think calling in sick would work out so well for that long.”

“No, probably not.” Doc opened his door and got out of the car. Marty followed his example, trying to ignore the sudden nerves swimming around in his stomach. “How is the photograph looking today?”

The teen pulled it out, frowning as he saw the latest developments. “Dave’s completely gone from the waist up, now,” he reported, stuffing the picture back in his shirt pocket as he started walking towards the school doors, cutting across the front lawn. “This is getting creepy. Does that mean things are getting worse?”

“Quite possibly -- but only because you haven’t done anything, yet.”

Marty caught sight of the school for the first time and stopped, amazed, looking at Doc. “Whoa! They really cleaned this place up! It looks brand new....”

Doc didn’t seem to share the amazement, continuing to focus on the subject of Marty’s family issues. “Now remember, according to my theory, you interfered with your parents’ first meeting,” he said as they approached the front steps. “If they don’t meet, they won’t fall in love, they won’t get married, and they won’t have kids. That’s why your older brother’s disappearing from that photograph. Your sister will follow and, unless you repair the damage, you’ll be next.”

Marty nodded once in understanding. “Sounds pretty heavy.”

Doc glanced at him, an odd look on his face, as they went up the steps to the main doors. “Weight has nothing to do with it.”

No one stopped them as they entered the school. The halls were all but deserted, since the first period was more than half over. Marty glanced about uncertainly. “How are we gonna find out where my parents are now? Ask?”

Doc checked one of the clocks in the hallway. “I think we can simply look in the classrooms. Asking any of the staff or faculty here would simply generate an attention we don’t really want.”

That sounded reasonable. Marty moved from classroom to classroom, peering into the door’s windows just long enough to look at the faces of the students being subjected to learning. None of the teachers noticed him, but a couple students did catch sight of his face and give him weird looks. He hoped it didn’t have anything to do with his new hairstyle, though he had to admit Doc had been right; a lot of the guys now seemed to like slicking on the scary gel.

It took him five tries before he found his mother, busy taking a test in a first floor classroom.

“Hey, Doc!” he hissed to his friend, who was bending down to use a water fountain. “Doc, there she is! Right there, second row.”

The inventor straightened up and came over for his own look. “Oh yeah. I see the resemblance.”

Marty watched as his mother glanced up at the teacher and, after seeing the woman’s back was turned, leaned over and surreptitiously glanced at the student’s paper on her left. Marty’s mouth fell open a little as the realization sunk in.

“Holy shit! She’s cheating!”

Doc shrugged, as if this wasn’t news to him. “Well?”

“Well, she’s... she’s my mom!”

The scientist gave him a faintly sympathetic look and patted him on the back. “Kids are kids,” he said. “Is your father in the class, too?”

“No... I just can’t believe that Mom would do something like that! I mean, after all those years of lectures about how honesty was the best, winners never cheated.... Jesus!”

Doc changed the subject as they stepped away from the classroom door. “I’ll keep an eye on your mom if you want to check around for your pop.”

“Right,” Marty muttered. “Like that’s gonna be much better....” At least George McFly wouldn’t be cheating. Probably.

It took Marty longer to locate his father, around the corner and down the hall from where Lorraine was. George wasn’t in the middle of a test; it looked like the teacher was giving a lecture. George was busy scribbling something in a notebook, too preoccupied to notice the student behind him, carefully taping a “Kick Me” sign to his back. Marty sighed and shook his head. It was almost easier to deal with his mom cheating over this bit of humiliation.

The bell rang a few minutes later and the classrooms emptied quickly, students eager for the few minutes of passing time in the hall. Doc caught up with Marty as the teen stood near the stairs, watching his father as the guy moved through the hall in his direction.

“Which one’s your pop?” the inventor asked.

Marty sighed, embarrassed, and pointed reluctantly at the sad figure. George was scribbling in a small notebook as he walked, trying his best to ignore the trio of bullies mocking him and kicking him in the ass. “That’s him....”

Copyright 2003