Disequilibrium: n. Loss or lack of stability or equilibrium.
A/N: If you enjoyed the one-shot, please take the time to write me a short review. Unfortunately, I have no method of monitoring the individuals interested in seeing more Emmett/Marty besides looking at the reviews. If I see there's an audience for the two of them, I'll be more than happy to write more; all you need to do is let me know. Cheers!
Takes place between the final scene with Emmett and Marty in Episode 4, 'Double Visions', and the opening of Episode 5, 'OUTATIME'.
"What a day…" I mumbled to myself as Emmett flicked on the lights to his laboratory. Escaping the Citizen Plus facility, trying to fix the time circuits with Citizen Brown and to top it off, narrowly saving Emmett from a great fall from the clock tower made today especially stressful.
Emmett cast me a sideways glance, noting my tired looking features. "You look exhausted. Perhaps you should turn in." While the idea of lying on a soft bed and finally catching some shut eye was appealing, I was determined to help Emmett with his flying car.
"Nah, I should stay up. You have to work on your invention for the Expo and you…" I felt a yawn coming on and tried to fight it back. "...might want some company." I yawned anyway, much to Emmett's amusement. "We're in this together."
The young scientist nodded and walked past the bookshelves and into the center of the room. "Unfortunately, I'm not used to accommodating someone else in the lab. I suppose you could use the table to lie down on…"
"I'm not going to sleep, Emmett." I said firmly. I'd done a couple of all-nighters before and I was confident that I'd be able to do it again; usually I was surrounded by math textbooks and furiously trying to re-learn three weeks of material in one night but I distinctly recalled a few times when Doc called me up and requested my assistance at some ungodly hour.
"I didn't say that you were but if you're going to fight your body's natural sleep pattern, you might as well do it on a surface comfier than the floor." Emmett tapped his chin, eyeing the grey table. "You know, I might actually have a pillow around here."
"I'm not-" I started to protest but he had already walked over to the bacteria aquarium and crouched down. Some shuffling of boxes was heard and I heard something fall followed by a gasp. "Emmett?" I asked worriedly. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. Just fine." Came his reply from under the countertop. "It's right...No, that's not it."
I raised an eyebrow and walked over to his knelt figure. "I could find the pillow while you start working on the flying car if you want."
"Nonsense. Here it is!" His voice claimed excitedly. He backed up from the table and stood up abruptly, nearly knocking me over. Emmett clutched a dark blue pillow with a single horizontal stripe and offered it to me. "Sometimes, when I'm working on a particularly fascinating phenomenon, I end up spending the night in my own laboratory." He gave me a sheepish look. "I don't know what it is but the idea of discovering so new and innovative in the field of science really gets me going."
Smiling, I reached out and took the pillow. "Don't lose that passion, Emmett." Truth be told, I was really looking forward to seeing the finished flying car. Granted, I knew that the car would be a complete failure at the Expo but I desperately wanted to see Emmett's face light up when he finally finished.
"I won't be letting idle things distract me from my scientific ventures anymore, believe me." He walked over to one of the back tables and hastily began collecting tools. "I've been thinking about the algorithms I used in the construction of the Mental Alignment Meter and I believe I can apply some of the concepts to the flying car. Not all of them will be able to translate, of course. Perhaps if I substitute the variable 'xy' with the potential difference aspect of Ohm's Law…"
"Sounds like you're on a roll." Another yawn. Maybe all that time-travelling was finally catching up to me…
Emmett looked up, confused. "A roll? As in a dinner roll?"
"Ah, nevermind." I quickly dismissed and pretended to be overly interested in the pillow, a little embarrassed. "You were saying?"
As Emmett continued his audio commentary on his future modifications for the flying car, I walked around the ping pong table and to the table that Emmett had offered. I decided to just lie down on the table for just a few minutes, listening to him.
There was something about the way his voice got so lively and enthusiastic when he was talking about science that was oddly relaxing. Older Doc's scientific lectures would often lull me to sleep if I was called out in the middle of the night. Once in a while, I would nod or give a sound of agreement to acknowledge that I was attempting to stay awake but more often than not, I found myself fast asleep in one of his armchairs with Einstein at my feet. Guess Emmett has the same effect on me as his older counterpart…
Propping up my head with my arm, I watched with mild amusement as Emmett moved around the lab, collecting his necessary supplies while periodically scribbling something in a notebook on the ping pong table.
"Oh no!" He cried out. I instantly became alert and jolted upright on the table.
"What?" I asked in panic. "What happened?"
"My suit! I got so wrapped up in planning an express modification to the flying car, I completely forgot about what I'm going to wear to the Expo!" He quickly turned the corner and began digging through boxes again. "There has to be some sort of outfit I have lying around…"
I moaned and fell back onto the pillow. "That's it? Don't you think that you're overreacting?" If I continued to hang around Emmett like this, I was positive that I'd soon suffer from high blood pressure and permanently elevated stress levels.
"If I want to impress the Expo attendees, I need something to really 'wow' them. It's a shame that this suit had to get ruined. It fit me so well."
"It won't be hard to find a new outfit, Emmett. You'll look good in whatever you choose to wear." I paused, suddenly realizing my choice of words. "Er… what I mean is that people will love your invention regardless of what you'll look like." I quickly clarified, burying my face in my hands.
"Thanks." Emmett came back into view and held out a dark blue jumpsuit for me to see. "How about this? It's flexible enough to allow me to make last minute adjustments at the Expo and I won't have to worry about getting it dirty since I've had it for ages."
"It's fine." I replied, moving my hands and taking a quick look at the jumpsuit. "As long as it gets the job done."
"Perfect." He began to walk back to the corner of the room as my attention drifted to the ceiling.
I found myself wondering what the future 1986 would look like at that moment. With Edna and Emmett broken up, would everything be back to normal? I knew that I couldn't take the risk and had to see this through. I had to ensure that Emmett got to the Expo and showed off his doomed experiment. And then back to 1986 with older Doc. I frowned. But that meant saying goodbye to Emmett…
Doc was one of my best friends. Despite everything we've been through together, we'd always managed to stick by each other through thick and thin. Sure, some people didn't understand why I hung around him so often and probably found the age difference to be a little peculiar but I didn't let any of that bother me.
With his younger self, our friendship wouldn't have been deemed strange or out of the ordinary. Emmett hadn't yet developed a reputation as 'Hill Valley's resident nutjob' nor was he significantly older than me. While I wouldn't ever think of replacing Doc, Emmett wasn't a particularly bad substitution. Maybe I was born in the wrong time…
"So? What do you think?" I stopped my train of thought and shifted myself onto my arms, giving him a once-over.
His ruined white suit was gone and replaced it with the navy one piece, his usual clothes underneath. He had ditched his formal shoes and opted for boots, presumably for practicality sake. With a dark yellow scarf around his neck and goggles sitting above his brow, he looked extremely sharp in his new attire and it really suited him. Doc was never meant to dress so formally, he always looked his happiest in his scientist apparel. Emmett looked like a true inventor and would have definitely made his older self proud. "You look amazing, Emmett." I said sincerely, giving him an encouraging smile. "In fact, I'd say that you never looked better."
Emmett's cheeks reddened slightly and gave a dismissing hand motion. "Now you're just over exaggerating ."
"You know I'm not." I loosened the collar on my suit and let my tie hang limply around my neck, not bothering to slide off my overcoat. "You'll knock 'em dead."
Emmett appeared to be a loss for words and struggled to find a response. It was quite funny, really. I don't think I've ever caught him so off-guard.
After a few moments, he gave a noise of frustration and disappeared out of my line of view. "It'll have to do. I don't think I have anything else that would be practical for the Expo."
"Sure. Whatever you say." I lay back down on the table and folded my arms behind my head. "To be honest, I think everyone will be more interested in your invention than your fashion sense."
I must've dozed off during his reply to my comment because when I opened my eyes, Emmett was wiping the sweat off his brow and was adjusting what appeared to be the flying car just out of my view. I ignored the urge to go right back to sleep and quickly composed myself in hopes that Emmett hadn't noticed me sleeping on the job. Luckily, he seemed to be preoccupied with his work and concentrating on the task at hand. Rightfully so, I think. Nothing got between Doc and his work.
"…and the voltage would have to equal three times the amount of circuit length to maximize the power. The thermal energy needs to be re-allocated using the access points here, here and here."
"Hmm? Oh, sorry. I forgot that I was speaking aloud again." He appeared around the corner and walked over to a scarlet tool box that had seemingly appeared out of thin air on the back table near the bacteria aquarium. "It's easier for me to visualize the adjustments needed to the flying car. I think that I've managed to solve the initial power proposal but compensating for the thermal energy and the actual levitation of the craft is another story entirely."
"Extremely. The weight of the flying car isn't exactly an easy factor to work with. Especially when we're talking about propelling the darn thing into the air." Emmett grabbed his goggles and shifted them up onto his forehead. "I'm stumped on the algorithm for electrical displacement however. I've tried heuristics, comparing the formula to some of its mathematical relatives and sketching a diagram." Pinching the bridge of his nose, the boy closed his eyes and inhaled slowly. "The stress is really coming down on me hard. Although I know failure isn't an option, it's becoming increasingly more attractive."
Concerned, I adjusted my lounging position to get a better look at the young scientist. "Don't talk like that. You're a great scientist, Emmett. Honest. You can't give up when things begin to look rough." He watched me attentively as I continued. "If everyone gave up when one thing stopped them, do you think that we'd have all the wonderful inventions that we have today? By continuing to look forward, we're able to achieve these once unattainable goals." I lifted most of that inspirational shit from my school president speech in ninth grade. In hindsight, I'm glad that memorizing that speech and practicing the 'confident' voice was actually good for something besides votes.
"Very true." Emmett nodded vacantly in response. I don't think he heard what I said but if he did, I think he'd be quick to call bullshit on my useless words of wisdom. There was certainly something else on Emmett's mind.
Deciding to cut to the chase, I waited until his attention briefly flickered to me before I spoke. "There's something else on your mind, isn't there?"
Emmett gave me a half smile, nodding again.
"Lay it on me. I've been told that I'm one hell of a listener." I urged. I knew that whatever was eating up Emmett was going to ultimately distract him and I figured that letting him get it all off of his chest was the best way to deal with the anxious scientist.
Emmett wavered for a moment before sitting down on the table beside me and taking a deep breath. "This is really happening, isn't it, Marty?" He saw my puzzled look and continued. "Up until now, I wouldn't have dared enter my work into the Expo. I was always so concerned with Father's opinion and was terrified of what he might think." Emmett bit his lip and turned his head to look at the calendar just above my head, the Expo dates all circled in red. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I'd make it this far. I thought that my love for science would be suffocated under the law career that my father was forcing upon me." He turned back to me, his brown eyes meeting my blue. "It astounds me that a boy claiming to be from the patent office…" He gave me a knowing smile. "…was able to help me get this far."
"You shouldn't discredit yourself, Emmett." I adopted a sitting position next to him. "You deserve all the credit. All I did was give you a little push. Besides…" I added. "You didn't need me for the two months I was gone."
"Speaking of which, where did you disappear to?" Emmett asked, curious.
I rubbed the back of my neck awkwardly, rapidly trying to think something up. "It's, um, a long story." I finally said. I had a couple of explanations in mind but I ultimately chose to forgo them. I only had one more day with Emmett and I didn't want to lie to him anymore. He was my friend and I wanted to treat him like one. "Don't worry about it."
Emmett raised an eyebrow, suddenly suspicious. "Nothing illegal?"
"Why? Are you going to report me to your father?" I chuckled, giving him a playful nudge.
We both laughed for a few moments which, in my opinion, was a lot more than my pathetic excuse for a joke deserved. The laughter died down and there was silence before Emmett spoke up again. "But seriously?"
"Ah, no. Wouldn't dream of it." I answered swiftly. At least not in this timeline.
He seemed content with my answer so we just sat in silence for a bit, enjoying the moment. The sounds of the lab, the brilliant inventions scattered around the room, Emmett sitting next to me. All of which would become a mere memory by this time tomorrow.
"Hmm?" He turned his head slightly to face me.
"I'm sorry about Edna." I had to get that off my chest. When I saw him sitting on the ledge of the clock tower hours ago, I really felt like a complete asshole. I cared so much about restoring my own timeline and eliminating Edna from the equation that I had forcefully broke up a happy couple (well, as happy as one can be when dating Edna).
"Don't worry about it. I think it was for the best anyway." He gave me a sympathetic smile. "I was so blinded by love that I didn't stop to think about whether it was the best direction for me to take. As a scientist, it's important not to demonstrate confirmation bias when testing one's hypotheses."
"Ah, sure." I agreed. "Confirmation bias and all that." He'd lost me again but spending all that time with Doc had taught me to just accept what he was saying as the truth and just move on. To my great surprise, Emmett shifted towards me and casually leaned his head on my shoulder.
I stiffened instinctively at the motion and felt my face grow red. My mind raced, trying to think up a reasonable reaction to the situation. I knew that Emmett's intentions were innocent and he wasn't trying to cause me any discomfort but I couldn't help it. I mean, weren't girls the ones that were usually leaning on the guys? Jennifer must've done this a dozen times but it was so much more different with Emmett. Well, actually now that I think about it, I might've actually seen girls do this with their friends outside of Hill Valley High. Do guys do it as well? Was I overreacting to this whole deal?
"Marty?" Shit, he nearly gave me a heart attack. Serves me right for losing myself in my thoughts, I suppose…
"Uh, yeah?" I tried to keep my voice steady and as possible. His head was still on my shoulder and thankfully still unaware of the 'scared shitless' expression on my face.
"You're clutching the table awfully hard."
"Wha-?" I looked down and noticed that I had been forcefully gripping the table's edge the entire time. My knuckles were beginning to turn white which probably meant that I was grabbing it a bit too hard. I carefully pried my hands away from the table and forced them to remain flat on the surface instead. "Sorry." I apologized quietly.
He chuckled at my weak response. "Nerves for the Expo?"
"Definitely nerves, all right." I answered. "Don't think they're for the Expo though…" I added under my breath, moving my head to ensure that Emmett didn't hear.
"We'll be just fine. I'm sure of it."
The other teen yawned which, in turn, caused me to yawn. Damn it, why did yawns have to be so contagious? "Tired?"
Emmett nodded slightly. "I have to admit that I'm slightly envious of the fact that you get to sleep before the big day."
"What are you talking about?" I quickly pulled a mock offended look, looking down at him. "I haven't slept yet."
He lifted his head up to meet my eyes and smirked. "I may not always be completely aware of what's going on in my surroundings when I'm lost in my experiments but I do know when someone starts snoring in my own laboratory."
I hastily rubbed the back of my neck and averted my gaze. "I don't snore…" Goddamnit, my noisy sleeping habits have once again gotten the better of me. First, class. Then, hiding from my mom in order to avoid chores. Now, this. I really needed to see someone about that problem.
Emmett bit his lip, evident that he was fighting back a snicker. "I've also noticed that you tend to sleep on your stomach with your arm bent behind your back. You're quite the unusual one, aren't you?"
I laughed softly and shook my head at the unbelievable truth that the statement held. 'Unusual' was putting it too nicely. A time travelling teenager? I don't think anyone could hold a candle to the amount of shit that I've been through; I'm as strange as they come. "You could say that."
"I suppose that makes us two of a kind." Emmett concluded thoughtfully, leaning back onto my shoulder.
I furrowed my brow at the thought. Two of a kind. No, Doc and I were two of a kind. I've always considered Doc, with all of his years of accumulated wisdom and experience, to be my counterpart. He once told me how much he admired my interest and eagerness to lend a hand with his science experiments and I retorted that I wouldn't be nearly as interested if he wasn't the one conducting them. I think we shared the same sense of adventure and fascination with the unknown. That's what really bonded us together. We were definitely cut from the same cloth.
Emmett and I were… something else. While older Doc and Emmett shared the same passion for science, his personality was certainly altered over time. Age does that to people. You learn as you grow older and you find your true calling over time. You become milder, develop more mature personality traits, grow a certain tolerance for others and so on.
With the time barrier, I knew that Emmett and I would never have the sort of friendship that Doc and I have. Maintaining my friendship with Doc was my first priority. If I overstayed my welcome with Emmett, it might alter his future self which would potentially alter his ideas about science and lead him to never invent time-travel thereby creating a paradox that would tear the space time continuum a new one. Holy shit… Doc's really rubbing off on me.
I looked down at Emmett who had closed his eyes for a brief moment, somehow finding my shoulder a suitable replacement for a pillow. Doc never showed much signs of fatigue. Emmett on the other hand… "Don't fall asleep on me. That flying car needs more work, you know." I said playfully, giving a slight nudge the tired boy.
"I'm merely resting my eyes. Scientists never have time for sleep when life's great mysteries go unsolved." He explained softly. "You, on the other hand, should be feeling the effects of prolonged periods without sleep anytime now."
Smiling at his remark, I found my eyelids drooping as if on cue. "Right as always." I shifted my body slightly to prop up Emmett better and rested my head on top of his, allowing my eyes to close and welcome the darkness. The soft noises of the lab accompanied with the sound of Emmett's deep breathing was enough to gradually lull me to sleep. I'd help Emmett in the morning.
I was relieved that Emmett hadn't moved away from me when I lay my head on top of his. I was a little worried that he might get the wrong idea and pull away, giving me a bewildered look while I sat there in shame. He clearly didn't mind the close proximity and I finally concluded that I didn't either. Just two friends using each other as support, right? Just friends.
Just before I drifted off to sleep, my mind began to wander. I thought about Doc, Jennifer, Einstein, my parents, the DeLorean, that fateful night in 1985… Everything that lead up to this moment. It was then that I absorbed the sheer absurdity of the current situation.
1931 and 1986 together in the same room. The idea went against the natural course of time itself and yet, here we were; evidence of an absurd notion suggested and tested by Dr. Emmett Brown. We were on two ends of a spectrum. Never meant to meet nor have any direct interactions with one another.
Every moment that we spent together was a protest against the laws of time and space. It was unnatural, insane and oddly surreal. Spending time with the younger self of one of my closest friends had been quite the experience and I really was going to miss him.
It pained me to think that tomorrow I'd be leaving Emmett behind in 1931 while I went back to my own time. Part of me desperately wanted to stay and just say 'screw it'. Stay just a few months longer and just spend some quality time with Emmett. No rushing around. No worrying about the future. Just us setting the framework for developing our friendship.
Of course, I knew that the plan was entirely flawed and would've probably earned me a disapproving look from Doc for even bringing up such an idiotic idea but I couldn't help it. With all of this constant talk about timelines, it's only natural that I'd consider what could've been.
By tomorrow night, Emmett would become a memory and I'd resume my rightful place in my own timeline; our friendship would forever remain in its volatile state.