Author's Note: This story indirectly deals with the "paradox" of Marty going back to 1885 to rescue Doc Brown, after seeing the gravestone with Doc's name on it in 1955 – said gravestone would not exist, after Marty saves Doc from getting shot and dying, so then the gravestone would never be there for Marty and 1955 Doc to discover. . . I don't specifically mention the paradox in this fic, but I do infer another possibility for Marty's trip to 1885.

Disclaimer: I do not own Back to the Future, Doctor Emmett L. Brown, Marty McFly (or any of his family members), Gerald Strickland, Biff Tannen, or any other related characters.

I am writing for fun and feedback, not for profit.

-ck


IN THE MEANTIME -or- ADDITIONAL TIMES

by IntitalLuv

Confusion that never stops
The closing walls and the ticking clocks gonna
Come back and take you home
I could not stop, that you now know, singing

"Clocks," by Coldplay

Saturday, November 12th, 1955

10:16 PM

Hill Valley, California


Marty McFly was exhausted.

He sat in the driver's seat of Emmett Brown's 1949 Packard, soaked to the skin, staring out the windshield at the driving rain and wondering why he was so damn tired.

It could have been because he'd run two miles into town, and then to the courthouse, after the Western Union man had delivered the letter that had made his heart soar. He was still a little disgusted with himself for not accepting a ride from the Western Union guy – what was his name? Had he said his name? – as Marty was sure the man would have at least given him a lift to the town limits. He guessed he'd declined the guy's help because Doc's repeated warnings were finally sinking in. "Don't interact with anyone in the past unless it is completely unavoidable!" Yeah. Fine time for him to remember that.

Or maybe he was beat because he'd been running around all day, since his and Doc's pre-dawn arrival in '55, trying to get that damn almanac back from Biff Tannen. He'd jogged the two-mile trek into town then, as well, although his pace had been less hurried; it had been insanely early, and he'd had to wait until a store opened anyway, so he could purchase a time-appropriate hat and jacket. Next he'd located Biff, following him to the town square shops, and then had hid in the back of the bully's car (resulting in him getting beaten and bruised with a couple of oil cans). He'd tried to rest when he'd been locked in Biff's garage – after realizing he was stuck good and couldn't do anything about it, he'd dozed in the back seat of the freshly repaired convertible. But not knowing when Biff (or Doc) might make an appearance, he'd been too stressed to really sleep.

Although any rest he had achieved had been quickly depleted. He'd had to chase Biff around the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, all while avoiding running into Biff's cronies or into his past self. He'd snuck into Strickland's office, had nearly gotten his hand broken (it still ached), and he'd stolen the almanac from Biff not once, but twice; the first time snatching it from a still-dazed Biff (after George McFly had decked the bully) and the second time grabbing it off of Biff's convertible's windshield - barely avoiding getting himself smeared on the road or on the tunnel wall in the process.

Or maybe the exhaustion was a product of the constant time traveling, on less than eight hours' sleep. Once he'd returned to 1985 (and after he and Doc had gotten the DeLorean and the bullet-ridden van back the garage and had tried to clean up a little of the mess from the overloaded amp and blown-out speaker), Doc had finally dropped him off at home around 2:40 a.m. Then the scientist had returned to Marty's house by 11 a.m., fresh from 2015 and demanding that Marty accompany him back to the future. They'd been in 2015 for three hours, in 1985A for over five hours (two of which Marty had spent lying senseless in a bed in the elaborate suite on the 27th floor of Biff's Pleasure Paradise). Lastly was the trip to November 12th, 1955, which in a few hours would be November 13th. And damn it, when was the last time he'd actually eaten?

Marty looked over at the passenger seat, at the sprawled, gangly figure of Doctor Emmett Brown. The teen still wasn't even sure how he'd gotten the unconscious man into the vehicle, before the rain had caught up to the town square. When Doc had fainted at Marty's appearance, moments after he had successfully sent the teen back to 1985, Marty had almost wanted to keel over on the ground as well. It was just too much, in too short of time. Biff had done his best to kill him, in two goddamned timelines, first with a gun and then with a car. He'd almost been struck by lightning, and then almost beaned by a tree branch. Doc had been in the DeLorean when it had been struck by fucking lightning. Marty had practically made himself sick running into Hill Valley, having to stop once or twice to bend over, wheezing and trying to not puke. And then the man who he'd run to for help - the only guy who could help him - had done a swan dive in the middle of the street. When Marty had finally accepted there was no way he could revive the scientist, there had been only one other choice: get him In the car, and get him home.

Except there was more to it than that. Once he'd dragged Doc, none too gracefully, over to the Packard (which Marty had thankfully left unlocked when he'd returned from the dance), and had somehow hoisted him into the driver's seat, the teen had gone around to the passenger side, climbed in partway, and then pulled Doc over far enough so that Marty could get to the steering wheel. Marty had slammed the passenger door and then ran back around to the driver's side, hopping back in, and then had realized he didn't have the car keys. That meant they had to be in Doc's coat. Luckily, after patting the man's coat pockets Marty had felt the keychain's bulge fairly easily. He'd been reaching to put the found key in the ignition just as the rain began to fall, and another bolt of lightning lit the sky. The bolt had been nowhere near the intensity of the one that had fried the clock tower, but it was bright enough to really bring the downtown area into focus.

The downtown area that still held the remnants of Doc Brown's "weather" experiment.

"Oh, shit."

Marty had forced himself out of the car, and while the rain had started to pelt down, he'd begun to break down and remove the evidence of the experiment. He'd gathered up the tarp that had been covering the time machine, and had grabbed the swaying hook off of the cable that ran over the street. Next he'd unplugged the last cable that Doc had plugged in at the street lamp, then followed its course across the courthouse lawn, and using all of his strength, had finally detached it from the cable that hung over the now defunct clock. Marty had tumbled to the ground when the cable had come undone, falling down around him. He'd collected it, and the discarded rope, coiling them up loosely. Any smaller items he'd found had been tossed into the containers that Doc had lined up at the curb, and random tools had been placed back in the large grey toolbox.

Marty and Doc had brought the DeLorean to the courthouse square on a trailer (there had been no thoughts of actually driving the car in daylight), but Marty was unsure where the trailer had ended up – apparently Doc had moved it from the immediate area so it wouldn't be in the way during the time travel attempt. So with no other place to put things, Marty had done his best to store all he could into the Packard – what didn't fit in the trunk was placed in the rear seat. Even so, he wasn't able to get everything. The ladder had been too long to fit in the car, so that had remained folded up on the tree bank. There was still the cable up at the top of the clock tower, and the cable suspended above the street. Marty hadn't had the time – or the inclination, in the middle of a thunderstorm – to attend to those things. So he'd returned to the driver's seat, keys in hand.

And Doc was still dead to the world.

Marty just felt dead. He didn't think he'd be any wetter if he had jumped into a pool fully clothed.

"How in the hell am I going to get you in the house?" the teen said now, looking at his young-old friend. "I barely got you in here. And I think that was more adrenaline that anything."

Doc didn't reply.

Marty leaned his head back, sighing deeply, then ran his fingers though his dripping hair. "You know, Doc, you're the one that can always figure this stuff out," he said, idly noticing how his voice was trembling. Cold, or fear? "You'd have some idea of how to transfer weight, using pulleys or wheels or some kind of hoist – "

Or the hoverboard. Which he'd left at the Lyon Estates billboard.

"Oh, shit!" he repeated, quickly starting the car.

By some miracle, the hoverboard was right where he'd left it, when he'd grabbed the cast-off pail to burn the almanac in. The pink board hadn't been discovered by the Western Union man, it hadn't floated away (the wind must have been blocked somewhat by the billboard), and it seemed to still be fully hovering, even while wet from the rain. Marty wondered on that; he knew the hoverboard didn't work on water, but apparently getting the board wet didn't seem to affect its power. Which was pretty lucky for him. If the damn thing wouldn't work until it dried out, it wouldn't help him with Doc.

The doc was still unconscious when Marty jumped back in the car. The teen was slightly worried now. The man's forehead had been bleeding again when Marty had first pulled him into the Packard, most definitely an aggravation of the cut he'd received a week prior, but the bleeding had now stopped. Even so, Marty was concerned that the man might have hit his head when he'd fainted. He hadn't really noticed it at the time, he'd just been so flabbergasted that the man had actually passed out, but what if he had struck his head? What if he had a concussion or something?

What's Grandma Sylvia always saying? 'Don't court trouble.' "Don't court trouble, McFly, Just get him home."

Marty pulled Doc's car up in front of the scientist's house, which was still brightly lit with most of the lights on. On this occasion the teen was equally to blame for that, as he and Doc had left the house together to head to the courthouse square (before Marty had gone to pick up Lorraine and go to the dance), but Doc did tend to leave his lights on when he knew it would be dark when he returned. And it was helpful. It was also helpful that people – including Doc – didn't lock their houses much in 1955. Marty had found that incredible, especially considering the expensive furnishings and decorative objects that Doc had in his mansion, but Doc had replied that the only place he consistently locked was his garage/lab, because he considered the items inside there to be irreplaceable.

Fortunately, Marty didn't need to get into the garage. He needed to get into the house, and he was counting on it being unlocked; he hadn't remembered Doc locking it when they had left. After stopping the car and killing the ignition, Marty looked at the hoverboard, floating in the passenger footwell, and then studied Doc's still body. After a moment he nodded resolutely to himself, then leaned forward to button the scientist's overcoat. It was awkward and difficult, as the teen had to move the limp man to the side and practically twist himself underneath him, and after sweating and panting through connecting three buttons, Marty called it good. He grabbed the hoverboard and slipped it inside the partially buttoned jacket, then positioned his shoulders in preparation of lifting Doc in a fireman's carry, effectively trapping the hoverboard between himself and the inert scientist.

For a moment Marty felt like he was going to tip forward under the larger man's weight, and never even make it out of the car. But as he backed up, slowly edging out of the vehicle, the hoverboard easily supported the doc's inert form. Elated with his success, Marty carried the unconscious man through the rain and up the slick steps into the thankfully unlocked house.

After getting Doc into the house and on the couch in the study, Marty unbuttoned and pulled off the man's jacket (the hoverboard floated away lazily) and then haphazardly covered the sleeping scientist with a dressing gown that he'd found hanging in the bathroom. He also removed the doc's wet shoes and socks. Next the teen peeled out of his own jacket and soaked Nikes and socks, letting them drop to the floor to join Doc's wet items. Copernicus trotted over at that point, to sniff at the mound of saturated clothes, before jumping up on the couch to settle next to his slumbering master.

Marty's next task was to get a fire going in the fireplace. 1955 Doc had earlier shown the teen how to go about that, and Marty had paid the utmost attention, watching closely and wondering if the fire that had destroyed the mansion in the '60s had originated from a chimney fire. But the process ultimately hadn't seemed that difficult, not much different from the fireplace at the McFly house. Although they rarely used the fireplace at home, and when they did, Marty seldom lit it on his own, as his mother often reminded him of how he'd accidentally lit the living room rug on fire. Even though that had been some nine years ago and hadn't had anything to do with the fireplace.

After several attempts, necessary because he extinguished three matches due to his shivering and his still dripping hair, Marty was eventually successful in starting a fire in the fireplace. The teen then set his and Doc's shoes in front of the fireplace grate and hung their jackets on the tools that bracketed each side of the hearth. Ready to drop, he turned to a nearby armchair – and then he saw the letter from Doc, the one from 1885, sticking out of his jacket pocket.

How did I forget about that?

The pages had been partially protected because of being in his jacket's interior pocket, but as Marty had exposed them to the rain when the Western Union guy had first given him the letter, the paper was definitely wet. Marty was worried that if he couldn't dry the pages, they might degrade or become illegible. He thought briefly about using the hair dryer that Doc had in his suitcase in the DeLorean, before he remembered that all of the future objects had been packed away to be sent back to 1985, and further, the DeLorean had been struck by lightning and wasn't in 1955 anymore.

Suddenly weakened by grief and fear, Marty sank to the floor, holding the damp, ancient papers in his hands. He was close to tears. "All my fault," he whispered. If he'd just ignored Biff when the guy had called him "chicken," if he'd just held his temper in check and left right then, gone up to the roof to meet Doc. . .They could have destroyed the almanac, made sure everything went back to normal on their 1985A materials, and be back in the true 1985 right now. Instead of him being stranded (again) in 1955, and Doc being stranded in 1885.

Marty crossed his legs, placing the wet pages of the letter on his knees, and began to read, occasionally murmuring the words aloud.

"I am alive and well . . . lightning bolt shorted out the time circuits . . . I set myself up as a blacksmith . . . I attempted to repair the damage . . . proved impossible . . . replacement parts will not be invented until 1947 . . . buried the DeLorean in the abandoned Delgado mine, adjacent to the old Boot Hill Cemetery . . . until you uncover it in 1955 . . . My 1955 counterpart should have no problem repairing it . . . do not attempt to come back here to get me. I am perfectly happy."

Unable to fix the time machine, the doc had resigned himself to living in 1885, and had instead trained his attention and focus on preserving the DeLorean so that his timelost assistant could go back home. It was the kind of selfless, virtuous act that Marty had long ago realized was just Doc being Doc.

Close to the end of the letter, Marty read on, but soon had to stop and take a trembling breath before he could finish.

"Marty, I now say farewell and wish you Godspeed. You've been a good, kind, and loyal friend to me and you made a real difference in my life. I will always treasure our relationship, and will think on you with fond memories, warm feelings and a special place in my heart."

These words brought tears to his eyes again, and this time he had to wipe at his eyes with his knuckles. Doc was gone. For good. He didn't get to say good-bye to the man, he would never see him again – well, if things went the way Doc wished and Marty didn't attempt to rescue him, which was a request the teen found extremely hard to swallow. "Yeah, Doc," he said softly to himself. "We'll see about that."

Marty looked over at the 1955 Doc, still deeply asleep. "1955 counterpart," Marty muttered, speaking the phrase that Doc had used in the letter. This was the man who would be tasked with unearthing the hidden DeLorean and then repairing it, so that Marty could be sent back to 1985.

Alone.

Even though it was crucial that the currently unconscious scientist see the letter and additional document (which Marty now knew to be a map), the teen felt an odd sense of antagonism toward the younger Doc. Enough so that he almost didn't want to share "his" Doc's letter. It was addressed to Marty, after all; had been in the possession of Western Union for over seventy years, with his name on it. Marty McFly. It had not been addressed to this decade's Emmett Brown. Marty understood that the two Docs were the same, and yet they weren't, at least not to him. He'd known his Doc for years, and the younger Doc for mere days.

But no matter how Marty felt now, or might feel in the morning, the letter needed to be dried out. Setting the pages delicately on the arm of the chair, Marty went over to Doc's desk and began to rummage through it; the last drawer he opened had what he was looking for – a spool of sturdy string. He unraveled and cut off enough to create a rudimentary clothesline in front of the fireplace. The pages of 1885 Doc's letter were gently placed over the string. He also found the clothesline was the perfect place to hang his and Doc's sodden socks.

When Marty backed away from his handiwork to regard it critically, finally falling into the armchair, Copernicus wandered over. The dog had left Emmett's side briefly to nose at the hoverboard, floating near the teen's bare feet. Marty reached down to pet the dog, suddenly homesick for Einstein.

Although at the same time, Marty had the perplexing feeling of being "home." The mansion had become familiar, comfy, secure. He was scared and stressed and oh so tired, but he also felt safe.

And so the teen finally crashed, completely unaware of the storm continuing outside or of the decidedly empty feeling in his stomach. And he didn't wake until many hours later, when Doc started whizzing around the room, muttering about "Howdy Doody Time" and attempting to transcribe the previous night's events into his reel-to-reel tape recorder.


Saturday, November 13th, 1955

8:05 AM

Hill Valley, California

"We may have to blast."

Emmett Brown, Marty McFly, and Copernicus the dog were in the garage lab, where they'd decamped after Marty had convinced Doc that he was really present (again) in 1955 and not a figment caused by stress or injury. It was a little over eight hours since the teen had managed to carry the scientist into the mansion.

"Blast?" Marty repeated. "What, do you mean with dynamite?"

"Precisely!"

"Okay . . . where are you going to get dynamite?"

Doc grunted softly, flicking his eyes around the lab self-consciously. Marty shook his head, closing his eyes. "Let me guess. You already have dynamite." He opened his eyes to stare hard at the sheepish man. "Doc, isn't that stuff really dangerous to have around? I mean, can't it explode?" The teen was uncomfortably reminded of the stolen plutonium.

"Dynamite can be prone to explosion if it is old or not handled correctly, but I have it stored away very safely. And there's little danger when there's no blasting caps attached."

"But you have blasting caps."

"Well, of course." Doc waved his hands in an airy shrug. "There would be no point in having the dynamite if I couldn't ever use it."

Marty lifted a hand to his head, rubbing his forehead. "Of course. How silly of me."

Emmett seemed unaware of the teen's sarcastic comment; the man was now pacing the lab, holding the letter written by his 1885 equivalent. "We'll need a truck - I don't think we can transport everything we'll need in my car. We'll definitely have to get ropes or chains, and tools, like pick axes and shovels, and some type of lights – miner's helmets!"

"Great, Doc." Marty, tired of examining the random experiments scattered around the garage, sat down in the chair near the television. Copernicus jumped into his lap, and the teen hugged the dog to him, sighing deeply. He closed his eyes again as he listened to the scientist drone on, now theorizing the possible materials he might need to repair the time machine. Marty didn't realize that he'd dozed off until he heard Doc calling his name, an edge of concern in his voice.

"Yeah?" Marty squinted up at Doc, thrown for a second by the scientist's age. When he'd been listening to the man's verbal planning, it had sounded so much like the older Doc he knew, Marty had briefly forgotten what time period he was in.

"Are you feeling well? You look a little peaked."

Marty laughed shortly. Peaked. Now that was a term his Grandma Stella used. "I think I'm just tired – and hungry."

Doc blinked, then nodded with a brief chuckle. "I am as well. That's what comes from missing meals. We should go back to the house." He peered out the window at the heavy rain – it had slacked off when they had initially tracked down to the garage, but had picked up again in the short time that they'd been in the smaller building. "It looks like we'll get wet," he commented. "I often wish the garage was attached to the house."

"No! Wh-why?" Marty's tone was initially panicked, but when Doc peered at the teen in confusion, Marty quickly cleared his throat. "I mean, if something happened to the house, and the garage was attached, it would spread over."

Doc was still perplexed. "And what would you expect to happen to the house?"

Marty spread his hands out; Doc noticed they were trembling slightly. "I – I don't know. Termites? Uh, flooding?"

"I don't think either of those possibilities is very likely," Doc said gently. "Either way, the point is moot – the garage is not attached to the house."

"But the point is probably moot," Marty sang softly to himself, then clammed up when he saw Doc staring at him, his eyes wide.

After a quick shake of his head, the older man's face took on a more accusing look. "Marty, you really should have mentioned earlier that we'd missed breakfast. I tend to forego meals when I'm inspired or engrossed with an experiment or discovery."

"Yeah, I know," Marty snorted.

"Oh, yes, that's true," Doc mused. "You would have already seen such behavior this past week, I'm sure."

"Try the past three years," the teen corrected, smiling grimly. Then he froze, looking at the scientist in muted horror. Crap.

Emmett had made the connection at about the same time Marty had realized his error. Three years. Marty is from 1985. Three years prior to that is 1982, which must be the year in which we met – meet. The man raised his eyebrows at Marty, exhaling softly, and just that quiet, non-verbal scolding made Marty feel like a world-class heel.

"I'm sorry, Doc, I didn't - I wasn't – " The teen rubbed a hand on the back of his neck, a motion that Emmett had quickly identified as a nervous behavior, less than a day after the future boy had shown up on his doorstep. "I'm just not thinking straight," Marty continued. "I'll be better once I eat."

Doc shook his head again, this time lifting a hand in acquittal. "It's all right, I'm quite rattled myself. We shouldn't discuss things further until after breakfast." He looked somewhat rueful. "I guess it's our own faults, not eating before the experiment last night, no matter how excited and nervous we were."

Already forgetting his earlier gaffe, Marty tried to clarify his presence. "Uh, well, that was the 'earlier' me, Doc. The one you sent back last night. For me it's been a few days later, or at least a day later. It's hard to really know, what with the different times my Doc and I visited – "

"Don't!" Doc raised both of his hands, stopping a dismayed Marty in mid-sentence. "Please, don't tell me anything more, Marty! I don't wish to know anything that could impact my future knowledge concerning my construction and decisions regarding the time machine. I know too much already." He lifted the aged letter, still grasped in his hand.

"Yeah, okay – I didn't mean to! I just . . . " Marty trailed off, the point he was trying to make drifting out of his grasp, like a dream upon awakening. A tense frown crossed his face, and Copernicus leapt to the floor, unhappy with the unexpected rigidity to Marty's body.

Doc gazed down at his agitated dog, then looked up at the timelost teen. He narrowed his eyes in concentration, a deep line appearing between the brown orbs. "How long did you say you've been bouncing around in time?"

Marty shook his head, still frowning. "Doc, no. You just said – "

"You don't need to tell me when or where you were, or why. But I don't think you telling me the amount of time you've been traveling could really affect anything I may or may not do in the future. And I believe this is important." Doc set the letter aside, on the edge of the table that held the scale-model of downtown Hill Valley, then stepped closer to the teen. He hunkered down in front of Marty. "For me, I sent you back to 1985 just last night. How long has it been for you?"

Having already tried to calculate it in his head the night before, Marty was able to reply with little hesitation. "Uh, from when I got back to '85, until I showed up again last night and scared you – and I'm really sorry about that Doc, really – I think it's been about 34 hours."

The line between Doc's eyes disappeared as his eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You've been running non-stop for almost a day and a half?" he exclaimed, leaping to his feet.

Marty shrugged and shook his head at the same time, then ran his fingers through his hair, suddenly unable to stop fidgeting. "I got a decent night's sleep in '85 before you showed up in the morning – closer to noon, actually. And I was out for a few hours in one timeline and dozed off in another, so I guess it was more like twenty hours of running around." He looked down at his hands, now in his lap, and counted on his fingers. "More or less."

Looking a little perplexed, Doc lifted his hands to grip at the hair on the back of his neck, pulling at it distractedly. "And when was the last time you've eaten a meal?"

"Um. . ." Marty shrugged again, forcing a smile that was more like a wince.

"Great Scott!" Emmett looked wildly around the garage. "I know I have some work towels stored in here – they're not pretty, but we can throw them over our heads to try and stay dry." He moved toward a far corner of the garage, muttering to himself as he went. "Running around for a day and half with no sustenance – why would my older self let a teenager do something so unwise?"

Marty remained in the armchair, petting Copernicus, who had returned to his side. He felt the odd resentment again – 1955 Doc versus 1985 Doc – and had an overwhelming urge to defend '85's actions and intentions against '55's judgement. If he wasn't worried about seeing the frustrated disappointment on '55's face, when Marty again let something slip about the future, the teen might have justified '85's choices. It wasn't old Doc's fault anyway. It was mine. Buying the damn almanac. I goddamned killed my dad!

Out of all the horrors that Marty had seen in the alternative 1985, such as the video clip of his mother's wedding to Biff, his mother's "enhanced" chest, and Doc's abandoned and chaotic lab, the one sight that he knew would never leave his memory was George McFly's untimely tombstone. I'll remember that until the day Dad actually does die, he thought despondently, and leaned forward, lowering his head into his hands.

He stayed that way until Doc returned to his side, two large towels in his hands. When Marty lifted his head at the man's approach, Doc's face filled with concern. "What is wrong?" he said immediately, lowering the towels. "You look upset – are you all right?"

Marty let out a shuddering sigh. "It's been a really bad couple of days," he said, "and I just want to go home."

Doc draped the towels over his arm. Leaning forward, he rested a reassuring hand on Marty's shoulder. "And I'm going to do my best to get you there."

The scientist's sincere, unwavering voice, coupled with a determined gaze, was so like the Doc Marty had known for three years that the teen's earlier antipathy vanished. This was his Doc. This was his friend.

Marty again felt his eyes mist up. Damn, I really need to eat something.

As if he could read his friend's mind, Doc said, "But first, breakfast." He handed Marty a towel. "It's not quite a raincoat, but it'll have to do."

A minute later, they were dashing for the house, the towels held over their heads and Copernicus trailing behind them.

ooOoo

Doc insisted on cooking, declaring that cold cereal wasn't substantial enough to satisfy either of them. So as Marty set the table and got the loaf of bread out of the breadbox and the butter and milk from the fridge, Doc busied himself with making eggs and oatmeal. It was a routine the two had fallen into the past week, when their schedules had allowed; Emmett would cook, and Marty would set the table (and clear it after), usually also doing the dishes. When they'd had meals together earlier in the week, conversations had typically been about Marty's progress on getting his teen-aged parents together, and Doc's progress on getting the DeLorean prepared for the Saturday night lightning bolt. This morning there was no need to talk about Marty's parents, but the matter of the time machine was again the main topic of discussion.

"After we finish here, I'm going to take a shower and change, and then I'll set about gathering the vehicle and supplies we'll need to unearth and remove the DeLorean from the mine." Doc looked ahead distantly, a dark expression crossing his face. "I rarely visit that area, based on its proximate location to the cemetery, but it can't be avoided. Obviously my future self felt it was the safest and most commensurate hiding place."

Marty swallowed his bite of toast, washed it down with milk, and gazed at the man across from him. "How much of that stuff are you gonna be able to do today, Doc? It's Sunday. There can't be that much open. Even in 1985 some places are closed on Sundays."

Emmett nodded. "You're correct; it's unlikely that I'll be able to obtain everything I need today, so it may be tomorrow before we can attempt the excavation. But I can make phone calls, and I should be able to procure several items today. I've found that over-paying often gets you what you need when it would normally be unavailable. And I have the funds to do just that."

Marty shifted uncomfortably; his hand meandered up to the back of his neck. Doc, seeing the movement, became more alert. "What is it, Marty?"

The teen's mouth gaped open slightly at his friend's prescience, but then he smiled grudgingly. "Okay. Uh, I was just gonna say I feel bad, for all the money you've been spending on me. The clothes you bought me, and feeding me, and everything you got together to send me back to '85 the first time – "

Doc waved a hand, dismissing Marty's concerns. "Please, Marty. You don't know what it has meant to me, to realize what my future self has done, what I've - he's invented. . . If not for you, I might have discarded or delayed my plans of creating a time machine."

Marty opened his mouth, ready to counter that fact – after all, his older friend had originally invented the time machine with no previous intel from a stranded teen – but then shut it again, feeling this fit into the realm of "information Doc doesn't need to know." Doc, misinterpreting Marty's obvious disagreement, went on. "And I also owed you, as it was my fault - or, my older counterpart's fault, that you got sent back here with no way to return to your time. As you were a victim of his apparent misguided actions, the least I could do was shelter and clothe you."

An unbidden wave of anger coursed through Marty at the current Doc's lambasting of his future counterpart. He has no idea how and why I first ended up in 1955 - he's too stubborn to let me tell him, and I know he hasn't read my letter yet. But right on the heels of that thought was the recognition that accepting stolen plutonium from Libyan terrorists was the definition of "misguided," and that pretty much was the "how and why." So the teen ducked his head, turned back to his dish of oatmeal, and just said, "Thanks, Doc."

The scientist hummed a soft grunt, also returning to eating. After a few more bites, he said, "There's also the matter of retrieving the equipment from the area in front of the courthouse." He looked to the nearest window. "I hope the rain stops soon," he added softly, his face solemn.

Marty had risen to clean his plate; he now turned to Emmett. "I got most of that already, Doc. What I could, at least. It was a little hard with it storming, but most everything is in the car."

Doc goggled up at his friend, who was standing near the sink. "You did what?"

Marty shrugged, suddenly embarrassed and not sure why. "After you fainted last night, I got you in the car, and then I saw all the stuff still scattered around on the town square. So I grabbed what I could. Most of the smaller stuff, you know, whatever I could make fit. . . You can go look at what's in the car – that should give you an idea of the things I had to leave behind. Like the ladder."

Emmett smiled; the grin stretched wide and crinkled his dark eyes. "Marty, that's magnificent! Thank you so much for doing that!"

"Uh, no sweat." Marty shrugged again. "I figured if I hadn't shown up and made you freak out like you did, you would have done it yourself. So I kinda owed you, too."

"'Freak out'," Doc repeated wonderingly. "I am entertained daily by your casual idioms, my friend."

Marty smiled crookedly; he was reminded of how he often chastised the man for his extensive use of scientific vocabulary, usually by entreating "English, Doc!"

The scientist was rising, carrying his dishes to the sink. "Once you're finished eating, Marty, why don't you get some rest? You can use the room you occupied yester- uh, when you were here earlier. In fact, your clothes from this time period are still in the wardrobe."

"I'm pretty much done." The teen moved back to the table, gathering the rest of his dishes. "I'm okay – I can clean everything up."

"I'll handle it." Emmett took the bowl and glass from Marty's hands. He regarded his friend's pale, tense features. "You still look awfully tired, and teenagers need more consistent sleep. Also, as you told me earlier, you've had a very stressful past two days."

Marty stepped from one foot to the other, hesitating. "Isn't there anything I can help you with? Maybe go with you to get the rest of the stuff at the courthouse? I can go put on some fifties clothes."

Doc shook his head quickly. "I appreciate that, but I'd much rather you stay in the house until we need to retrieve the DeLorean. It wouldn't do for you to interact with anyone, especially someone who might recognize you."

Marty considered possibly running into his parents (again) or Biff and his sidekicks, and his face paled more than it was already, which was quite a feat. "Oh, yeah, right. Don't worry, I got it. I won't answer the door if someone knocks, I won't answer the phone. . . Hell, I won't even leave my room!"

Emmett smiled faintly. "I hardly think you'll need to resort to that. But I am glad you understand the risks."

ooOoo

Even though Doc had intimated that Marty's precautions were somewhat extreme, the teen did stay in his room most of the day, eventually falling into a comfortable sleep. He didn't emerge until the scientist, still feeling guilty about his friend's involuntary multi-day fast, roused the young man for supper. Emmett had had no reason to believe that Marty hadn't been sleeping during his entire self-sequester. And while that was what Marty himself had planned, he hadn't immediately been able to rest. . .

Once in "his" room, Marty kicked off his shoes and lay back in the bed, but he was unable to unwind. He felt weirdly alert and uneasy, his mind a jumble of disconnected phrases and images. At first he thought it was the absence of his Aiwa walkman, which had really comforted him during his original stay in 1955, providing him with a bit of normalcy. He'd only had two cassettes: one in the music player (Eddie Van Halen solos on one side, Synchronicity by The Police on the other) and one in his jacket pocket (a mix tape that Jennifer had made him, mostly of love songs recorded off the radio). Right now he would've given anything to listen to every sappy song from Air Supply to Wham! if it meant he could relax, but his personal cassette player was back in his bedroom in 1985 - when Doc had shanghaied him and Jennifer in the late morning on October 26th, Marty had climbed into the DeLorean with just the clothes on his back.

The thoughts of Doc, the 1985 Doc, in the Old West, brought Marty's scattered senses together, to release in a concentrated burst. He sat up suddenly, then climbed out of bed and pulled open the top drawer of the nightstand.

Earlier in the week, Marty had squirreled away a pad of paper and a pencil in his room; he had initially considered writing a warning note to Doc about the terrorists and leaving it behind in the room for the man to find (and whether that would have worked the same as the letter he'd finally penned in Lou's Diner, he'd never know). He pulled out the items now, and sat down cross-legged on the bed. Placing the pad of paper on his knee, he drew a line in the middle of the top page. On the left side of the line he wrote "Pros," and on the right, "Cons."

At the top of the paper, he scrawled: "Reasons to Rescue Doc from 1885."

After less than ten minutes of scribbling, Marty set the pad of paper down on the bed in front of him and read it silently.

Under Pros: "Doc won't be stranded in the past (where he could get sick or hurt). Einstein won't think he's been forgotten. Doc's place in '85 won't be vacant and abandoned. I won't have to try and explain why Doc's missing. I won't have to worry about him for the rest of my life."

And underlined, for emphasis: "I'll get my friend back."

In the right-hand side column, under Cons, he'd written only one: "Doc might be ticked that I didn't exactly follow the directions in his letter."

Marty smiled to himself. He honestly wasn't quite sure why he'd written the list. Before he'd even fallen asleep last night, he'd made the decision. Once he and young Doc retrieved the DeLorean and it was again made capable of travelling through time, Marty wasn't going back to 1985. At least, not straight back. He'd readjusted the DeLorean's time circuits before without the current Doc's knowledge; he was fairly confident he could do it again. And once he'd rescued his Doc from the past, and the man was seated in the time machine next to him, he would be more than happy to go back to the time period wherein he belonged. Where they both belonged.

Ripping the page off the top of the pad, Marty folded it and placed it in his jeans pocket. Then, stretching out his legs, he lay back on the bed, turned over onto his stomach, and was asleep within five minutes.

END