I wrote this in 2003 and, you know, I can't even remember my inspiration for this story. I just remember having an itch to write something morbid. Maybe having recently come off a long-term relationship had something to do with that.
Obligatory Disclaimer: I do not own the canon characters. I will never profess to own them lest the two Bobs sue my broke ass.
The poem, "Epitaph on A Friend" belongs to Lord Byron.
Now, on to the story!
Until We Meet Again
Doc stood next to the casket. The perpetual shock that had been his constant companion over the last several days continued to shroud him now making the whole experience of this wake seem surreal. At least that was what he wanted to believe. For if, he was to believe that all of this was truly happening, he knew he would not be able to bear it.
O Friend! for ever loved, for ever dear!
What fruitless tears have bathed thy honour'd bier?
What had happened? Things were not supposed to turn out this way. No, the future was never written, but things like this weren't meant to happen. They couldn't happen.
What sighs re-echo'd to thy parting breath,
Whilst thou wast struggling in the pangs of death!
So how did it transpire that his best friend was now dead?
Could tears retard the tyrant in his course;
Could sighs avert his dart's relentless force;
Doc never figured that he would outlive Marty. The concept in itself was unnatural. Marty still had his whole life ahead of him. Doc had seen his friend's future with his very own eyes. This is what made everything so difficult to understand.
Could youth and virtue claim a short delay,
Or beauty charm the spectre from his prey;
Why hadn't Doc seen this coming? Maybe there was some little thing that he could have done or said to save Marty from this fate.
Thou still hadst lived to bless my aching sight,
Thy comrade's honour and thy friend's delight.
"Fate," Doc mused humorlessly to himself. "Was a car accident meant to happen regardless if time travel interfered or not? Only now, instead of Marty breaking his hand, this accident claimed his life. Would Marty have been better off if we had left well enough alone?" A light touch in his arm briefly startled him out of his thoughts.
"Emmett, we'd better take our seats," Clara said softly.
If yet thy gentle spirit hover nigh
The spot where now thy mouldering ashes lie,
Doc nodded absently as his wife more or less led them to their pew. Doc sat through the service, consumed by a persistent numbness. He knew that an expression of emotion for the loss of his friend was appropriate, but his emotions refused to surface. He sat through both the service and the burial with an expression of stone that belied the fact that his heart had been ripped from his chest.
Here wilt thou read, recorded on my heart,
A grief too deep to trust the sculptor's art.
Later, after the funeral, Doc stole away to his lab for some much-needed solitude. Clara watched him go with a sad sigh, but she let him be. She figured that he needed all the seclusion possible to come to terms with what had happened over the course of the last several days.
No marble marks thy couch of lowly sleep,
But living statues there are seen to weep;
Doc had not set foot in his lab since he learned of Marty's death. Now it seemed like an appropriate place to wallow in his grief. No one would bother him here. No one would pester him by saying that everything would be all right. As he walked into the lab, the first thing to catch his eye was the DeLorean.
Doc remembered the joy he had experienced upon completing the time machine again as he replicated his original invention. Now, as Doc looked at it, the car seemed to illustrate the cruelest of jokes. Now, it was a harsh reminder to him that this ability to harness and manipulate time could do nothing to bring his friend back.
Affliction's semblence ends not o'er thy tomb,
Affliction's self deplores thy youthful doom.
Doc covered the car with a tarp as he couldn't bear to look at it any longer. He sat down at his work table and buried his head in his hands. A part of him expected Marty to come bursting into his lab to tell Doc the latest something or other. Nevertheless, Doc knew that Marty would never again walk through that door.
What though thy sire lament his failing line,
A father's sorrows cannot equal mine!
"It shouldn't have happened like this," Doc muttered as he picked his head up. When he opened his eyes, he noticed something that had been left on the work table. It was something that didn't belong to him. It was Marty's Walkman.
A half-smile forced its way, briefly, onto Doc's face only to be quickly replaced by an expression of deep sadness as Doc remembered why Marty had left the object behind. If only he could take it back…
Though none, like thee, his dying hour will cheer,
Yet other offspring soothe his anguish here:
Marty had been assisting him with a small project, a new addition to the DeLorean. The teenager had accidentally dropped a crucial component. It was a stupid thing to be angry about, but Doc was angry anyway. An argument had ensued with Marty eventually storming out of Doc's lab and out of Doc's life forever.
But, who with me shall hold thy former place?
Thine image, what new friendship can efface?
"Why did I get so upset?" Doc pondered as the slightest trace of an emotion began to appear. "That damned part could have been easily replaced. Marty can't and now he's gone."
Tears finally began to stream down Doc's face before he even realized that he was crying. He buried his face in his hands again.
"I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye," he thought miserably.
Ah! none!-a father's tears will cease to flow,
Time will assuage an infant brother's woe;
He had received the news from Clara that evening. He remembered the stricken expression on his wife's face as she walked into the lab to tell him that Marty had been in a car accident.
"How is he?" Doc had asked as he poked his head up from his work.
"He didn't make it, Emmett," Clara replied softly as she broke down into sobs.
A loud clang resonated through the lab as Doc dropped the wrench that he had been holding. The rest of Clara's words were mute to him as Doc's mind had reeled with the shock of the news. Until now, it was the last that he had felt of anything.
To all, save one, is consolation known,
While solitary friendship sighs alone.
Now the emotional impact hit him full force. Sob after wrenching sob wracked his body until he was physically and emotionally spent. As the sobs quieted, he came to a resolution. He had to see Marty. He may have to brand himself a hypocrite for the rest of his days, but he needed to see his friend one last time.
Before he could stop himself, he had ripped the tarp from the DeLorean and had climbed inside. After hastily inputting the necessary information he was off to the past.
In his haste and his emotional state, he hadn't bothered to conceal the identity of the time machine. It was broad daylight when he arrived in the past, but it was also very stormy. He knew that taking the DeLorean out like this was risky, but there was a part of him that didn't care in the least. That part of him figured that anyone who heard the noise would chalk the sonic booms up to thunder and nothing more.
He set the DeLorean down behind the lab and got out. He snuck around the building to a side window.
At the sight of Marty inside, his heart ached. He was sorely tempted to delay his friend's departure and prevent that accident, but he stopped himself. "You are just here to look. You are not here to create a paradox," he scolded himself silently.
He could see the proceedings quite clearly from his vantage point. He saw it when Marty dropped the part, because he was totally absorbed in the music from his Walkman to pay attention to what he was doing.
"For God's sake, Marty, pay attention!" Doc's past self snapped. He came around behind Marty to view the broken part on the floor. He was less than impressed with the sight. "That part was special ordered. Now, I'll have to wait another week to finish this."
"Doc, I'm sorry. It was an accident," Marty said as he took the headphones of his ears.
"It was an accident that could easily have been prevented had you been paying attention!" Doc's past self boomed. He grabbed the Walkman from Marty's hand and slammed the device down on the worktable.
"I said I was sorry," Marty said through gritted teeth. "Now, I'm sorry I bothered to help you with this in the first place."
"That makes two of us," Doc mumbled.
"Okay, that's it!" Marty said, having had enough of Doc's tantrum. "Since you are seemingly so perfect, you can do this alone. If you ever need help with anything again, you had better ask someone else, because I won't be around!" With that, Marty turned and started walking out of the lab.
"Marty, wait!" Doc called before he could stop himself. Realizing what he had just done, he ducked out of sight and snuck back to the DeLorean.
Marty whirled around as he naturally thought the outburst came from his Doc. However, the counterpart seemed just as perplexed as Marty.
"Wait for what?" Marty asked vehemently. "Did you want to berate me some more?"
"That didn't come from me!" Doc's past self exclaimed as he looked around for the source of the all-too-familiar voice. Marty thought that Doc was pulling his chain. He walked briskly out to his truck and drove off.
Doc quickly input the destination time and headed back to his present. He slowly drove the DeLorean into his lab and got out feeling an immense sadness. He sat down at the worktable to again immerse himself in grief.
"What on earth could I have been thinking to even attempt that?" he mumbled as he scolded himself for his blatant irresponsibility. "What was I hoping to accomplish, besides the complete destruction of the universe as we know it?" He set his head down on the table and clenched his eyes shut as he willed the self-pity away. He was so absorbed in his angst, that he didn't hear anyone enter the lab.
"Hey, Doc," a familiar voice said. It was a voice that Doc knew he should not have been hearing. "Listen, I came over, because I thought we should talk about what happened the other day."
Doc's head jerked up with a start. "It can't be," he thought. "I'm only imagining things. Ignore it and eventually it will go away."
"Doc, did you hear me?" the voice asked again, only now it sounded closer. "Hey, Doc, answer me."
"It is merely a hallucination," Doc thought. "It will pass."
That was when he felt a hand on his shoulder and Doc knew from the touch that the hand didn't belong to his wife. Doc almost did not dare look, afraid that the disappointment of reality would send him over the edge. He snuck a glance out of the corner of his eye and had to suppress the scream that threatened to erupt from his mouth.
Marty stood next to him fixing him with an anxious stare. "Jesus, Doc, you look terrible!" he said as he took in Doc's disheveled appearance and his red, puffy eyes. "What the hell happened?" Concern turned to confusion as he observed Doc's formal attire. "What the hell is with the suit?"
Doc could not find his voice to speak. There was no way that this could be real. Marty was dead.
"Doc, what the hell is going on here?" Marty asked, softly. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Doc stood up and suddenly grabbed Marty in the fiercest hug that the teenager had ever experienced. He almost lost control of his emotions again when he realized that what he was holding was real and not some mirage.
"Doc, you're scaring me," Marty replied as he returned the hug. "Did something happen to Clara or the kids? You're acting like someone just died!"
"If you only knew, Marty," Doc whispered. "If you only knew."
"Epitaph on A Friend" by Lord Byron