Author's Note:

Dear Readers,

As you can see, I haven't abandoned this wandering tale! All is going well at college. But, it has kept me from writing a lot recently. Hopefully I can settle in and get back to writing. Enjoy!

sarahandmarquis

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WORD COUNT: 2035
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Chapter 2
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DATE: September 7th, 1885
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Water droplets dripped off his snow-white hair as he attempted to button the buttons on a clean vest. One thing he had refused to endure in the old-fashioned world he had found himself in was dirt. He lived in a world surrounded by dirt and sand and grime, but he bathed regularly, thanks to running water he had secretly installed himself, and a washing machine, also another private invention of his own. Both the tub and the machine were hidden away from any prying eyes lest by their discovery the space time continuum be thrown askew.

The space time continuum.

Like any invention of his inadvertently stumbled upon could mess it up more than he already had. He had save a woman's life who should have died. He had hija- no, borrowed a steam engine, affecting all the lives on board. He had sent Marty into the future and left himself behind, an extra person in the century. Science told him that the future had been irrevocable altered, but his heart reminded him of how pretty her smile was and how sweet her voice sounded to his ears and asked if it really mattered.

She loved him. The words had crossed her lips.

Even their memories caused his heart to swell within his chest.

She was confused, a little lost, and more than a little shaken over their latest adventure but she still loved him. And, as the man she loved and who loved her, it was his duty to put all her fears to rest and return that carefree smile to her face. The responsibility weighed heavily on him as he dusted off his overcoat and hat. These were uncharted waters he found himself sailing through.

Doctor Emmett Brown had a woman depending on him.

It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating.

His horse, a loyal animal he had named Newton in honor of Sir Isaac Newton, sensed his urgency and, despite the long and frightening day, carried him quickly to the teacher's place of residence. As the horse trotted up, sending a puff of dust with every hoof strike, he saw the silhouette of Clara, bustling about the house, though an open window. Stopping the horse in front of the little white fence, he tied him to the hitch post and walked through the unlatched gate. The wooden boards of the steps creaked beneath his boots with every step he took up onto the front porch. The scent of freshly baked biscuits wafted on the light breeze through the house, causing him to close his eyes and deeply breath in the delicious smell.

It smelled like home.

He quickly knocked on the wooden door and heard the tell-tale sound of her shoes striking the plank floor. Even he, as inobservant as he sometimes was, could not ignore the happy skip in her steps. The door swung open, and he tried to catch his breath as her lovely smile stole it away.

She was radiant.

Her golden-brown eyes sparkled, and her blushing cheeks glowed as she eagerly welcomed him inside her house. Moments after he stepped through the door, he found himself ingulfed in her arms, her hands tangling in his white hair to pull his head down to meet her lips. Without hesitation, he allowed himself to be cocooned in her perfume and consumed by her kiss. After a night of broken-hearted despair, her affection proved the healing balm his heart needed.

After some glorious moments, she suddenly pulled away, her cheeks crimson with the brightest blush he had ever witnessed on her.

"I'm so sorry." She murmured. "I didn't mean to…" She gasped as he wrapped one hand around her waist and pulled her flush to him.

"Do not apologize." Leaving one hand pressing into her lower back, he tangled the other in her long dark curls and kissed her again. Her hands found their way to the collar of his overcoat and clung there, holding herself against him, a willing captive in his arms.

Breathing heavily, he pulled away and stared at the swollen lips and lidded expression on Clara's face. Pleased beyond belief, he quietly said,

"I thought I smelled something baking as I was walking up?" She frowned at him and playfully slapped his chest.

"Way to ruin the mood." The faintest of smiles teased her lips though as she couldn't find it in her heart to be mad at the man who had just kissed her silly.

"I did come to explain the time machine and time travel to you."

"And, not to kiss me senseless?" She pouted, and he nearly gave in to tasting that bottom lip again. "But, I do want to understand. Last night…you told me you're from the future." Even as she said it, it sounded strange to both their ears. "1985 to be exact. You came here from there in a time machine you invented which was the strange…thing I saw being pushed by the train into nowhere over that ravine. I was thinking about it while I baked this afternoon and I feel like I'm in a Jules Verne story, Emmett. I believe you, I can't help but believe you after everything I saw this morning but…at the same time…" She trailed off and stepped away from him towards the coffee table to pour a cup of tea for each of them.

She reminded of a ship, rudder smashed to pieces, set adrift in uncharted waters. As inordinately happy as she was to have him back, a wonder to behold to the former confirmed bachelor, she still craved answers and stability. For a week, she had been a happy school teacher, being courted by the local blacksmith: a classic western romance. Now, she found herself in a science fiction tale, her whole reality snatched away beneath her.

He sought to return her feet to a sure foundation a changed reality.

"You do not know how to cope with the alterations this discovery creates." He finished for her and watched her nod in agreement.

"I hope you can shed some light on it. Perhaps it won't be so frightening if you explain it."

"Then, allow me to teach the lesson." He smiled at her and took her hand in his, leading her to the couch in front of the fireplace. Once she was comfortable at his side with muffins and a cup of tea, he began the story at the beginning.

She listened attentively, accepting what he said as fact, trusting he would not lie or stretch the truth in anyway. And, why would he? After all, truth in this case was stranger than fiction. He told of the first accident in the space time continuum and its risky repair.

He tried to soften the part with the Libyan terrorists to her but there was no other way to explain to her that he had died in one time-line and been saved in another. At the news that his time traveling adventures had cost him his life at one point, Clara grabbed his hand in hers and made him vow not to do anything so foolish ever again. After reassuring her, he lightly kissed her cheek and finished the tale, ending with his unceremonious time travel back into 1885.

"That is my story, my love. After all this, I think I have had my fill of time travel."

"I could understand that. You've been through so much. I can't help but wonder what happened in 1885 without you? What would my life have been like if that lightning bolt in the future hadn't sent you back here." She rambled a bit and then looked at his face, reading his expressions as clearly as a book. "You know, don't you?"

"Clara, in 1985, Shonash ravine is called Clayton Ravine. After a teacher that went over the edge…in this year." She paused her, her brown eyes widening and her jaw falling open.

"I…I died that day?" He nodded solemnly, watching for her reaction to the news. All in all, she handled it rather well, merely sitting there for a very long moment and considering his words with much thought.

"I suppose in the end, it doesn't really matter. After all, I'm alive in this timeline. I'm alive with you and a future ahead of us." She tried to sound hopeful, but his expression told another story despite how he tried to keep it concealed.

"We're technically living in a third version of 1885. In the first, I never existed and you…well, the town named the ravine after you." He could not stomach verbalizing the admission of her death. "In the second, I died this morning. Shot down by Buford Tannen over a matter of eighty dollars."

"No." She whispered, unable to imagine that, at one time, she would have been sitting on her couch sobbing over a dead man instead of drinking tea with the love of her life. "How do you know that?"

"Last week, I left a letter with Wells Fargo to be delivered in 1955 to the location from where I disappeared, knowing Marty would be there. Inside were instructions on locating the DeLorean and a charge not to come back for me as I was very happy here. While he was unearthing the time machine, my dog found a tombstone with…my name, the cause of my death and the date inscribed on it. I know we met in that timeline because at the bottom it said, 'Beloved Clara.'"

"Oh my." She whispered, setting down the cup of tea on the coffee table and standing up. She pressed her hands to her mouth and took several rattled breaths. "Emmett, I won't lie. I knew…I knew from the start that one day I'd be wearing black for you. That one day I would be instructing the undertaking with the tombstone inscription. I just…I never imagined it might have been today." She closed her eyes and he saw a tear roll down her cheek. Horrified by the salt water, he sprang to feet and stepped over to her, taking her in his arms.

"Oh Clara, I still have time. So much time. So much I want to spend with you. Let us not think of the inevitable end of things but of the present, where much happiness abounds." He ran his hands through her curls, admiring the way they tumbled across his fingers. As he held her in his arms, his mind solidified around one thought.

He wanted this forever.

He wanted this woman whose mind matched his own. He wanted her to work beside him, to be the helpmate he had missed all his life. He could only imagine the inventions they could create together, their minds unified. And, what of the love shared? If she were to leave, his heart and soul would be rent in twain. Did he dare ask? He had known her for four days, no more no less. Could a such a short time really be long enough to determine a life partner? Yet, neither of them were getting any younger. He knew what he wanted. Now, if only she knew.

"Clara, I…" He licked his lips. He had no ring, but he would remedy that as soon as possible. "Um, I…" The words stuck in his throat as they had when he tried, and failed, to ask her to dance. Gently untangling himself from her arms, he ran his hands down to her wrists and held out gently as he dropped to one knee in front of her on the rug. She stared at him, her mouth gaping as he attempted to steady himself by running his thumbs over her knuckles.

"Clara, I know this is…sudden. And…and…and I understand if…you need to think about it. But…Clara, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Would you like to…" His hands felt slick with sweat. "Would you do me the great honor of…" He saw her starting to giggle but attempting to hide it. The color rose on his cheeks and before he could try again to ask her, she leaned down, lightly pressing her soft lips against his weathered ones.

"Yes, Emmett. Yes."