Chapter 7

Sunday, July 6th

1: 29 P. M.

Nobody wanted to do it, so they all decided to do it together. It had to be done, especially before the kids got home. Doc, Marty, and the two Claras went to the doorway, frightened of what they would find. They saw Psycho-Doc lying in a bloody heap, and Einstein slowly trying to climb back up, whimpering. "Einstein," Doc said, jogging down and picking him up. "Einy, you probably saved our lives." Einstein licked Doc's chin, bruises showing under his fur and one paw bent at an angle.

"How on earth did he survive?" Marty asked, scratching the dog's head.

"He – had a cushion," Doc explained, averting his eyes from the body at the foot of the stairs. "Plus he fell differently. I would say my other self broke his neck." He shivered. "We'll have to dispose of the body."

Clara 2 was shaking her head. "I can't believe this. . . ." She looked over at Marty. "I never realized how much Emmett must care for you before now."

Marty didn't meet her eyes. "I feel like a heel," he mumbled.

"It wasn't your fault," Doc said firmly. "Or yours," he added, seeing Clara about to speak up. "The blame rest solely on that sick future version of myself. If I'd talked about--" His voice faltered briefly. "If I'd talked about the accident, admitted my role in it, this might never have happened." For a moment, he still seemed firmly in control, then his facade crumbled away. "I -- I nearly killed the two people I love the most," he wept, sitting heavily on a step. "The Train Incident seems like child's play compared to this. I can hardly believe I'm capable of such cold-hearted cruelty."

Marty and Clara 2 sat down beside him , trying to comfort him. Doc pulled them both into a tight hug. "I love you both so much."

"We know, honey, we know." Clara 2 looked at Marty, her own eyes beginning to fill with tears. "Marty, I'm so sorry for all of those fights."

"Me too," Marty said, slipping his arm around her. "I should try to remember you're new to this century more often."

"And I should try to remember you know this one quite well and can keep us out of trouble."

Clara smiled -- her first true one in days. "Now that's what I wanted us to have," she murmured.

Marty slipped out of the clutch and gave her a hug as well. "Thanks. You probably saved my life today at least twice."

"I was glad to do it." She glanced unwillingly at the bottom of the stairs. "Do -- do you really think--"

"He's dead?" Doc finished for her, his voice raspy. "I would have to say yes. If the fall didn't kill him, it's quite possible he accidentally stabbed himself with the knife."

Clara sighed wearily. "I'm relieved, but I have to admit, I'm sad too. I didn't want him to die. I still loved him, in a way. Loved who he used to be."

Marty patted her on the back. "Well, at least now you won't have to go through all that."

This statement caused a new worry to pop into Clara's mind. "That's right. I just altered the past. Couldn't that cause a paradox, like you're always talking about?"

"Maybe. But Marty altered the past, and he survived intact. I have some theories, but I doubt you want to hear them."

Clara hazarded another glance down. "Actually, keep talking. It'll keep my mind off what we're doing."

As grateful for a distraction as her, Doc launched into a summary. "I'm sure you all know what a paradox is -- when you alter the past in such a way as to make the future you came from impossible. It can be described as a loop. When you cancel the cause, you cancel the effect, which often reinstates the cause, which reinstates the effect, which cancels the cause -- and so on and so on."

They had reached the bottom of the stairs. Pyscho-Doc's body was face-down, twisted strangely. His knife was sticking into him at an odd angle, and a sticky puddle of blood had spread out around him. Repulsed, everyone closed their eyes. Doc began talking faster. "Now, the one truly logical explanation I've discovered for preventing these paradoxes is the memory-replacement theory."

"Memory replacement?" Clara 2 asked as she fetched a large bag she could sacrifice.

"Ask Marty. He retains the memories he has of the very first time-line. The memory-replacement theory states he kept those memories to ensure that a paradox would not occur. It works like this -- Marty lives through the original time-line. Then he went back in time and altered the present. When his new self--"

"My new self?" Marty repeated, puzzled.

"The slightly-younger self you told me you saw at the mall," Doc clarified for him. "When he went to 1955, the dimmed memories came to the forefront. They replaced the memories he had of the time-line that now was." He shook his head. "I'm explaining this badly, aren't I?"

Clara frowned. "I think I understand. You're saying that I'm going to remember everything that happened, so I can go back in time and stop it from happening again."

"My head's spinning," Marty complained. "You guys aren't making any sense."

"That's because you have a problem thinking fourth-dimensionally," Doc told him. "It's also very hard to describe in words. I wouldn't worry too much about it, kid. I say that Clara probably won't end up destroying the space-time continuum by doing this. And if she does, we'll figure out a way to fix it."

Clara 2 shivered slightly as she looked at the bag they had loaded the body into. "That may be all well and good, but what's going to happen to him?"

"I'm going to drop it off in a secluded place and time. I also need to get some medical attention for Marty and Einstein. His parents would never let him come over again if we sent him home like that."

Clara felt the tears come back to her eyes. "Marty, I'm so sorry."

"It's okay, Clara," Marty reassured her. "I'll be fine."

"And when we get back, I think we should all have a discussion. I apparently didn't know the magnitude of your problems together, and I don't want anything like this happening again."

"I should be getting home too," Clara said wearily. "Now that we've settled everything, and I know I won't be returning home to a killer."

"You could stay a little while," Clara 2 offered. "You look exhausted."

"I know, but I have to make sure everything's all right again in the future. Part of me is terrified he'll still be there, and part of me is terrified I caused a paradox."

"Then at least let us give you a ride back to the train," Doc insisted. "Where did you leave it?"

"Right where we landed -- invisible in Eastwood Ravine."

"Perfect. We'll leave straightaway."

Thursday, July 17th, 1986

Hill Valley

12: 00 P. M.

Clara guided the train back under the garage. As its sounds died down, she heard laughter from up above. She followed the laughter upstairs and out into the yard. Marty was playing with Jules and Verne, mock-wrestling them. They were all laughing and shrieking happily.

Marty abruptly looked up and saw Clara. His bright smile faded. "Hey, Clara," he said softly, almost shyly.

"Come play, Mama!" Verne giggled. Then he got a better look at his mother's face. "Mama, you okay?"

Clara smiled. "Oh, yes, more than okay." She leaned down and gathered them all, including Marty, into her arms. "Having fun?" Jules and Verne nodded rapidly. "How about you Marty? Is everything all right?"

"Yeah. Dave's in line for a promotion, and Linda thinks Greg might be ready to propose." His smile returned. "Mom and Dad are talking to Doc about hosting a barbeque. You're gonna help, right? 'Cause those ribs you made a few nights ago were great."

"I'll do whatever I can," Clara said, squeezing him tighter for a moment. Doc was right, she decided -- Marty did give wonderful hugs. "I'll let you get back to your game. Be careful now."

"Yes, ma'am," Marty saluted. They all laughed. Clara proceeded into the house, already in a much lighter mood.

She found Doc, Lorraine, and George in the kitchen, chatting happily. "Ah, there's my Clarabelle," Doc smiled, holding out his arms. She fell into them, cherishing the loving warmth that enveloped her.

Lorraine frowned as she looked Clara over. "Clara, you look terrible. Are you okay?"

Now that you're alive again, I am, Clara thought. Out loud, she said, "I had some nightmares last night. Nothing serious." Doc briefly tightened his hold, much in the same way she had with Marty.

"You feel up to helping with our barbeque?" George asked politely. "It wouldn't be the same without all of you there."

"I'd love to."

"Myself included," Doc said. He slid open the utensil drawer and reached for the butcher knife. "I can make some steaks."

Clara caught his wrist before he could touch anything. "I don't think you need to demonstrate," she told him, trying to keep the panic from her voice. Abashed, Doc withdrew his hand.

After a few more minutes of idle chat, the McFlys left. Doc promptly pulled Clara close and apologized. "Deepest apologies, my love. I wasn't thinking when I did that. Oh, Clara, I love you so much." He kissed her passionately.

"I love you too," Clara murmured, leaning against him. "But let me do the cooking for that barbeque. I don't want to see you with a butcher knife again for a long, long time."

The End