Well, you're probably not prepared for this, but a week after I posted the last chapter, I found out that I was pregnant! And here I sit at the six-month mark with a little girl that I get to see again tomorrow on ultrasound! We're so very excited! Unfortunately, I may have to leave my job to be a stay-at-home mom, but that would mean more time to write! This chapter was the hardest one for me to get out, so I'm hoping before baby comes, I really can finish this thing! I have until Thanksgiving! Thanks for all your continued support! You've officially made this the most-followed AND most-favorited BttF story on this site! Thanks so much! Enjoy! :)
Rock Around The Clock
Saturday, November 12, 1955
George shook with adrenaline, staring at his hand.
I punched Biff. I punched Biff.
I punched Biff.
A laugh escaped him before his eyes met Lorraine's beyond his hand, wonder twinkling in her eyes. Swallowing, he stilled his trembling hand and extended it to her.
"Are you okay?"
Emma caught herself on Marty's elbow as they skidded to a stop in the gathering crowd. There was a moment of disbelief, that no, the universe couldn't possibly be handing them an outcome more perfect than they could have hoped for. But it was perfectly easy to read – Biff motionless on the asphalt, Lorraine's dress torn, George heaving over them in the aftermath as his peers tried to get a better look over the edges of the Packard obscuring their view.
Emma gaped with a large smile, clapping Marty on the arm and shaking him. "Would you look at that?" she whispered excitedly, hardly able to keep herself from jumping up and down.
She looped both of her arms around his elbow with a proud sigh as George and Lorraine gazed at each other through the parking lot. Her warm smile of content turned to Marty, but it fell upon seeing his brow still furrowed at the photograph of him and his siblings.
The photograph that was still fading.
Emma slowly released his arm. A familiar weight settled on them once more, the breeze lifting a few of Emma's fallen curls from her shoulders. This was not done. As glorious as the shifting tides felt swelling over them, they quickly withdrew, and a rush of blood pulsed in their ears.
"What do we do?"
"We need the band," Marty said, already pushing past people. "Come on."
Marty was a skilled musician - a term here meaning that, while rhythm and creativity came naturally to him, it was also his dedication to his craft that Emma admired. And not the "deadset on being a rockstar" type of dedication, no. She'd listened to him play and replay and replay and replay the same twelve notes over and over and over again just trying to get the riff perfect because in his mind, that's how it had to be, and he wasn't doing it justice by not playing it perfectly.
She always jarred herself out of her project in the middle of the lab, embarrassed she's gotten lost in figuring out why the thermal coupler wasn't working without him, and there he'd be several feet away, just as immersed in chords as she was in wires. She always smiled when she saw him like that; his face got silent and serious as he leaned over his guitar, scratching notes out with a nearby carpenter's pencil. Sometimes she'd quip them both back into the present, but more often than not, Emma would rather continue to sneak glances of his process just as she imagined he had her.
But it was beyond that, even. Beyond the charisma, charm, passion, and flair.
Marty has amazing breath control.
"That's where they kiss for the first time, and if there's no music, they can't dance, and if they can't dance, they can't kiss, and if they can't kiss, they can't fall in love, and I'm history."
The last time he rattled off a run-on like that, he made her not-yet father a believer.
And as it so happened, that one just earned Marty a place onstage with a shiny red Gibson and the impromptu position of lead guitar for the last set of the night.
He slung the strap over his head as the rest of the Starlighters bustled around their car, readying to go back in. Emma watched his fingers tick and jerk on the instrument's body; had nonexistence not been looming overhead, she could easily picture him caressing it with reverent awe.
Marvin ground out his cigarette with his shoe.
"We're on in three, kid."
"Right. Be right there."
Emma smiled when Marty turned to her, his eyes alight from visibly trying to suffocate his building panic.
"Right," he breathed to the ground, gripping her forearm to steady his blinding thoughts. Emma squeezed her hand over his.
"I'll see you backstage in ten minutes," Emma said over a brief gust, catching his eye again.
Marty swallowed and wet his lips. "You think I'll still exist in ten minutes?"
Emma shrugged. "Well, you know," she murmured wistfully, squeezing his hand, "if you put your mind to it..."
A knowing smile passed between them.
He squeezed back.
The wind rippled and rustled through the trees, and the hushed roll of thunder in the distance brought Emmett to a standstill in the middle of the courtyard. The hairs on his arms stood on end.
He had less time than he thought.
Easy, he told himself. Everything is fine. They're coming.
They were coming because, Emmett repeated, he himself still existed.
Because if Marty failed tonight at securing his existence, he could never be born to be sent back to 1955 to get his help in returning to 1985, and that would create a paradox where he wasn't sure any of them would get out alive.
Unfortunately, the fact that he, Emmett, hadn't evaporated in a paradox did not mean Marty and Emma had yet succeeded or failed. Either they were fine and had gotten Marty's parents together already, or they just hadn't reached the pinnacle of their endeavor yet.
And so, in the wake of another rumble of thunder, Emmett stared at the empty street, willing them safely back to him and the DeLorean.
Emma exited the stairwell at the base of the stage into the low lighting of the gymnasium, balloons and tulle and tinsel once again swaying to life as the activity in the room picked up again. She tried to look over her left shoulder to see Marty on the stage, but the pull of the tendon shot a hot twinge down into her wound. Rather than test just how much of her pain medication had worn off at this point, Emma obeyed her body and turned around fully, gazing up at Marty as Marvin dedicated out the song.
"This is for all you lovers out there."
Marty caught her eye, glaring from her to his parents and back again several times until she got wise, slipping away from the stage into the crowd towards the vicinity of George and Lorraine. His sweat-slicked fingers bore down on the guitar strings tightly as she went.
Emma stayed off to the side of the dance floor, reuniting with Deep Sea Seibe not ten feet from where Lorraine's soft coral dress was pressed into George's white jacket. Emma pulled a long strand of green "seaweed" from her unlikely acquaintance's shoulder, nudging the diver. Her lopsided grin from watching Lorraine's eyes melt into George's in the parking lot reemerged.
Goosebumps rose on her skin as she thought of Marty holding her that close, hands sliding up her back. Gazing at her with the same mute, palpable desire rolling off him she'd felt in the guest room before leaving the mansion, scrutinizing her every detail. The palm of his hand warm on her neck.
Emma felt her cheeks grow hot and cleared her throat.
"Nobody asked you, Seibe."
An errant guitar chord disrupted the velvety melody of the saxophone, immediately garnering a sharp look from Emma. She felt herself recoil at the continued dissonance, brow deepening at the bizarre, involuntary movements of Marty's hands. Seeing one the trembling offenders touch his forehead, however, panic slowly rose in Emma's eyes.
She exhaled unevenly with him as he fell to his knees, starved for breath against an amp. Adrenaline seized every muscle in her body, and she fought its immense weight to turn back to –
…some guy and Lorraine.
George, now ten feet removed from her, cast a dejected glance over his shoulder as Lorraine practically continued to cry out for him from the arms of the drunk, cackling idiot she'd seen regularly bully George throughout the week.
And just out of the spotlight, Marty was literally fading from existence.
An unrecognizable fury surged into Emma out of nowhere.
She did not play dress-up, half-ignore a bullet wound, tiptoe around her not-yet-murdered-father, and spend a whole week hinging her life on a goddamn lightning strike for George McFly to walk away from Lorraine and take Marty from her on top of it. Hell no.
Emma marched directly into George's path.
"You'll punch Biff for her but not Mark Dixon?"
It took a moment, but when George finally met Emma's intense glare, her scowl lessened to see an uncharacteristic yet resolute gleam in his eyes. And without any further prompting on her part, George strode back over to Mark Dixon, shoved him to the ground, steadily cradled Lorraine's face, and kissed her.
Eyes wide and desperately waiting for the impossibly taught rope in her chest to finally be severed, Emma held her breath and spun back to the stage just in time to see Marty reinstated to his musically inclined, upright self.
The rope snapped.
Emma beamed, contributing to the applause of the room for a whole different reason: this hormone-driven mess endangering Marty's existence was finally over.
Somehow, in the few seconds it took for Marty to emerge from under the strap of the borrowed Gibson, Emma had materialized just feet below him. The joy radiating from her smile was contagious, and with the tinsel and stage lights shimmering in the pearls of her necklace and sheen of her hair, he felt breathless all over again. In fact, he was all but ready to kneel down, haul her onto the stage, and kiss her right there when Marvin shouted over the room, "Let's do another one!"
Marty smiled apologetically, pocketing his photo and motioning to Emma at the foot of the stage. "Nah, I gotta go."
"Come on, man," Marvin insisted over the crowd. "Let's do something that really cooks."
Emma watched Marty scan the room, eyes ultimately falling on her in question. Her shoulders sagged, having a roaring mass of teenagers' happiness hinge on her permission to let Marty waste three precious minutes she wasn't sure they had. Emma consulted the clock – 9:37 PM – and worried her bottom lip.
Under the pleading gaze of her best friend, Emma conceded with the lazy twirl of her finger and a reluctant smile, issuing for him to hurry up.
Had she known what was going to transpire over those three minutes, Emma would have rescinded her blessing.
They could have been halfway to the clocktower right now.
Marty hesitantly pried his eyes open and grimaced at the dumbfounded silence of the gymnasium. Emma, on the other hand, was shooting daggers at him. Her stoic, stony glare radiated through the hazy bewilderment of the room right through him, and she raised her eyebrows toward the door expectantly.
He caught sight of the wall clock in the distance. 9:41 PM.
As he rose from his knees and removed Marvin's guitar, Emma rolled her eyes and made for the backstage stairwell.
Twenty-three minutes until the lightning strike, and he's sliding across a stage on his back shredding mercilessly on a guitar. Impressive, yes; strangely attractive, even. Good for him.
Bad for their timetable.
But, against her will, amusement had edged some of the sternness out of her expression by the time Marty exited into the stairwell with a sheepish, albeit growing, grin. Seeing her irked, tight lips bursting at the seams with an involuntary smile stroked his ego even more. He pocketed his hands coolly.
"David Lee Roth should be calling my agent any minute now."
Emma shook her smile out, guiding him by the elbow down the stairs. "Not that you didn't knock their socks off, but let's work on venue etiquette and showmanship first."
He and Emma turned. Lorraine smiled up at them from the doorway several steps down, her hands resting on a cloud of coral skirt. Somehow, even after that ruckus, they hadn't managed to slip away without interruption as hoped. But, allowing Marty to take the reins, Emma let go of his arm, meeting Lorraine's expression cordially as she stopped a stair above them.
Lorraine searched for some kind of compliment to Marty's performance, but she was afraid it had come off as half-hearted. "That was very interesting music."
Emma couldn't help herself. "He's definitely ahead of his time."
Marty threw her look over his shoulder. "Thanks, sis."
"I hope you don't mind," Lorraine continued, "but George asked if he could take me home."
A huge, collective weight vanished from Marty and Emma.
They were done.
"Great!" Marty practically shouted. "Good, good!"
Lorraine peeked up the stairs, biting back her involuntary grin. "Emma, I know you…and George-"
"No," Emma interrupted immediately, shaking her head. She glanced up at George as he appeared over Lorraine's shoulder. "He's a great person and a good friend, and I'm excited for you two."
Lorraine blushed as George edged passed her, shaking Marty's hand. "Thanks, Emma. We're going to miss you at lunch on Monday."
"That's okay." Emma patted George on the arm and smiled broadly as she brushed past Marty toward the exit. "I believe you already have a willing and worthy replacement. Keep the chocolate milk handy."
The wind had shifted from intermittent gusts to a steady breeze now, rippling over the trees and shallow puddles in the lamplight of the parking lot. But despite the oncoming storm, Marty and Emma crossed the yawning stretch of damp asphalt to the Packard in giddy silence, shooting each other wide grins. They earned this moment, if only until they reached the car.
Marty kept making a fist of his hand, reassuring himself that it was still there. That is wasn't going to become transparent and hollow ever again. His parents were going to live happily ever after in that, at the very least, he was going to born.
He made another fist, flexed it out, and chuckled when Emma congratulated him on still existing. He didn't laugh at the wisecrack, though. That laugh leapt from him because thank god.
Marty took the keys from his pocket, eyeing her thoughtfully as he tossed them to her.
"I had some help."
Emma smiled. "It's not like I could let you evaporate from my life when we've got a date in three weeks. Although, I'm hoping our dance is not quite as taxing and eventful as this one was."
"That bad, huh?"
She sighed dramatically, brushing errant curls from her face in the wind.
"I'm sorry, were you even there? Did you see Betty flirting with the algebra teacher? Smoked the rest of his cigarette and everything, the tramp."
Marty smirked, pocketing his hands. He was fairly certain that while his existence would not be at stake when they went to their dance, he might still find a way to make it eventful. More memorable, at the very least.
He beat her to the driver's door, opened it, and nodded to her as she ducked inside.
"You wearing that dress to our dance next month?"
"And become more of a social pariah? It severely lacks shoulder pads and sequins."
"I heard 'yes.'"
Emma laughed and shut the door.
Because Van Halen didn't pack his clothes in the DeLorean earlier that day, Emma had to detour back to the mansion for Marty to change clothes. She argued with him vehemently as she sped toward the square that he needed to stop being such a big sissy until, to Marty's surprise, she dropped it and barreled around the corner onto Riverside Drive.
At the top of the stairs, Marty hurried into his guest room, his discarded tie catching on the doorknob as he called back, "Aren't you getting changed?"
Emma laughed from the hall. "Into my bloody, sliced shirt and pants that I threw out days ago?"
Marty grunted in response, his response muffled as he changed. Emma took the opportunity to silently bid that wing of the hallway goodbye one last time, smiling at her tired reflection in the glass of the grandfather clock. There was a comfort about it she would miss; it had been like a small, safe place when she couldn't make sense of literally anything else happening to her. But she was all too ready to move on from it, knowing she had its continued comfort by way of sharing it with Marty in her memories. They could revisit it anytime in the future if they wished.
Or, if someone didn't hurry the hell up, they'd be back sleeping in those beds until the mansion burnt to ground.
Hearing a crash from Marty's bedroom buy her a few extra moments, Emma made for the large storage study her father had shown her to the day before yesterday. She had no hope of finding the light switch in the darkness, but the window let through enough of the lawn's lighting to guide her. Minding her dress amongst the upended chair legs, scrap metal, and wrought iron candelabras she made a mental note to ask about at some point, Emma made it to the jewelry armoire beside the window. She lifted the white sheet away from it carefully, but a small cloud of dust still stung at her eyes.
Gently hooking her finger around one of the rings on the third drawer down, Emma slid it open, slowly running her thumb over the velvet-lined void within. Then, she swung the clasp of her pearl necklace forward to her clavicle and removed it, reverently placing it back into the armoire and closing it.
See you in twenty-seven years.
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