"Doc!" Marty swore and then gave up. He somehow managed to maneuver his friend into the backseat of the Packard and slammed the door shut after taking the keys from Doc's pocket. The teenager got into the car and drove to the mansion, his mind overloaded with Doc's message from the past. He almost missed the turnoff point and had to make a sharp turn, nearly missing the mailbox.

"All right, let's get him into the house." Marty unlocked the door and Copernicus had bounded out with a happy bark. He whined a little bit as Marty got Doc into the house and set him down on the red couch, taking off his and Doc's shoes, propping them up against the fireplace grate. He struck a match and brought a fire to life, stoking it with a few pine logs. Pulling out the letter, he strung the pages on a wire to get them to dry out, then took off his leather jacket and hung it up. Marty put Doc's bathrobe over Doc, then took the hoverboard and put it down on the floor as he sat down in the red chair. Warmed and soothed by the heat of the fireplace, Marty fell asleep.


"We may have to blast." Doc frowned as he studied the map, scratching his head as the teenager moved his rook and Copernicus nudged the queen forward. It was raining hard outside and Marty was starting to feel out of sorts a bit. He felt like he was moving in a dream to some extent, but he wasn't going to say anything about it. The prolonged exposure in the rain hadn't done him any favors and he was a little irked at himself for being so foolish in the first place. Undoubtedly it was because of the surgery he'd had previously and he knew his stamina wasn't up to snuff yet.

"So what's the plan, Doc?"

The scientist looked up at him from where he had put the map away. "I'll have to rent a tow truck, since the DeLorean won't be in any condition to drive back here. The tires will have gone through many years of dry rot and they'll crumble from the least little touch. I'll need to siphon out the gas as that stuff won't keep for very long, a few years at least..."

"So we go out tomorrow and dig it out?"

"Yes I believe so. This damned rain will let up sometime." Doc looked outside the window to see nothing but blackness and the ever present rain pummeling down. Marty stifled a wince of pain from behind his hand. He had the painkilling drug the hospital had given him and now he fumbled for it, cursing when he realized he'd left it in the DeLorean's glove compartment.

That night, Marty tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. The dog came in and offered him doggie comfort in terms of snuggling up and licking his face, but Marty was only annoyed. He picked up the volume of Dracula and started to read. When morning came, Doc was already out to bring in the rented tow truck, so Marty cozied up on the couch with the book again, but before he knew it, he was falling asleep. The teenager woke up to find a concerned looking Doc leaning over him, gently shaking his shoulder.

"Marty, do you feel all right?"

He ignored the sore throat and answered Doc, "I'm all right. I just didn't get enough sleep last night." Doc didn't look convinced but he let it go.

"All right, everything's all set. It'll take about an hour to drive out there, so let's be on our way!" Copernicus hopped into the truck as Marty followed him, wishing he had some of Doc's energy. Once in the truck and Doc was heading out of town, the teen fell asleep again.

"Marty?" Doc was shaking his shoulder again. "Don't tell me you're all right when I know you're not, kid." Marty yawned and saw the dog was sitting on his lap. They'd pulled up beside the mine and Doc was angling the tow truck to be ready to receive the DeLorean. He pulled out the cable and hung it to the adjacent rock wall near the entrance, knowing he would need to winch the car out of the entrance.

Marty blinked lazily as he got out of the truck. "I'm really all right, Doc. Biff nailed me the night of the storm and my Doc discovered that I needed surgery for it."

Doc stared for a moment as he put his helmet on, switching on the headlight. "Where were you hurt?"

"My stomach. They said I had a hemoperitowhatsis."

"A hemoperitoneum?"

"Yeah, that." Marty switched on his own headlight as they started down the shaft. "I'm all right, honestly. I just haven't got the stamina I once did."

"You'll get it back eventually," Doc reassured him. They wired up the shaft entrance and crouched behind an old tomb in the cemetery nearby. "I see no reason why you shouldn't."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Doc." Marty was feeling a bit cranky and Doc recognized it. They blew the entrance open and started on down the shaft, Doc chattering away about his favorite author and Marty wasn't really paying any attention. They found the section of the mine where the DeLorean was and Marty explained away Mr. Fusion and some of the other modifications the car had. Analyzing the repair instructions, Doc then determined it was time to take the car out of the old shaft.

"How exactly are we going to do that, Doc? Blow another hole?"

"No. This shaft is wide enough to get it out." Doc and Marty knocked the skids off gently so the DeLorean was firmly sitting on the ground. Together, they pushed it towards the entrance where Doc attached the hook and cable to the car's tow bar and began to winch it slowly with Marty in the DeLorean, steering it into the main tunnel. It was a long and frustrating process, as DeLoreans only had so-so turning radius capabilities, but they patiently fought the battle and before long, Doc had simply winched it out of the main tunnel and was loading it up into the tow truck. The tires were badly corroded due to dry rot and crumbled as soon as he touched them, but Doc was optimistic that he could fix the machine and get it going again.


"What kind of future do you call that?!" Doc got into the tow truck followed by Marty and the dog, both of them were struck with images of how 1985 Doc had met his untimely end.

"We should go to the library and try to figure this out, Doc," Marty scratched Copernicus's ears. "I gotta know."

"I know, Marty. Once we get the repair material for the DeLorean tomorrow, we'll hit the library." the scientist reassured his friend. "I'd like to know how this came to be as well."

Once they were in Doc's garage, the scientist uncovered the car and dug out the repair instructions to make a list of what he needed to buy while Marty lay down on the couch with the dog.

At one point, Doc remembered that Marty told him he had been recovering from surgery and went to check on the teenager, wondering if he'd overestimated his recovery time and pulled stitches or something to that extent. Fortunately the teen was asleep when he went into the room, Copernicus snoozing at his side, playing his role as the faithful doggie comforter. Doc smiled and pulled down the couch afghan so he could check his friend.

Despite the advances in medicine, Marty still had 2 stitches sewn into his flesh in the upper right quadrant. There was some discoloration around the edges but Doc knew that was normal. He checked for any sign of redness, irriation, swelling, purulent discharge, but found none. Marty's body hadn't reacted at all to the stitches and that was the best sign Doc could hope for. Already there was scabbing over of the wound and he knew that was another good sign. Doc gently washed away the flaking scabs, not touching the deeper ones, put an antiseptic salve over the site, then covered up the stitches with a small loose bandage.

Satisfied now, Doc went to take a nap on the armchair.

The next day, Marty and Doc went to the hardware store and a few other places, then found the library was open. Marty decided he was going back to take Doc out of 1885 and bring him home, and Doc knew that it was useless to argue. Marty was right-his older self didn't belong there at all and he did not stand in Marty's way. Knowing his fate like he did, he would have asked Marty to go and fetch him anyway.

All in one night, Doc and Marty repaired the DeLorean and it ran better than before. The futuristic altenator provided plenty of power and Doc was quite happy to discover Mr. Fusion converted household garbage into power required for the flux capacitor.

Doc insisted on taking a look at Marty before he went into the past in spite of protests. He had to humor Doc, who was insistent on it, then cautioned Marty on overdoing it or underestimating his health. Groaning, Marty reluctantly submitted to the medical exam.


"What idiot dressed you in that outfit?" Doc scrutinized Marty's clothes as the teenager hobbled beside him to the livery barn where the scientist now lived.

"You did." Marty clasped his friend's shoulder as they went inside. Getting cleaned up, Marty put on some clothes borrowed from Doc and washed up. He'd banged up his right knee some from crashing into the pile of skids workmen had been using to fix a storefront, and he was staying off his leg as much as possible.

Later on in the day, Doc was shoeing horses and Marty, though sitting down on a couch with his leg propped up on an ottoman, was watching Doc with interest. Although he held up a newspaper in one hand, he was frequently watching Doc. It didn't seem right to him, his friend the scientist who liked to tinker with circuit boards and microchips, to be shoeing horses. Now as he watched Doc, he found it almost impossible to get his mind wrapped around the whole concept.

First off, Doc would bring out the horse, in this case a gelding, and he would use very tough wooden stocks that had been anchored deeply in the ground by the previous blacksmith to put the horse's hoof into. He would lower the stock down so the hoof was sticking out, then with a hammer claw, he would pull out the nails used to keep the shoe in place. He tossed the old shoe into an old steel pail which he would recycle and make new shoes with later on, then Doc would stoke up a blast furnace and melt new iron ingots until they were pliable enough to shape. Using a variety of metal tools, he would shape the iron bar into a horseshoe and nail it onto the gelding's hooves.

That night after Doc shoed about 4 horses for his clients, he and Marty went to the Palace Saloon to have supper. The bartender and the local barflies remarked on Marty's new clothes and rugged looking boots, to which he would nod politely and say nothing else.

"So how is your knee doing now, Marty?" coming in that night after supper, Doc hung up his hat and Marty ambled over to the couch, flexing his sore muscle gingerly.

"Feels more flexible now, Doc."

"Good." Doc palpated it. "The swelling is gone and you might be a little stiff tomorrow, but that's all."

"I'm glad for all that. Seems like I really suffer whenever you time travel, Doc." he joked.

"That reminds me, your surgery-"

"It's fine, Doc. Your other self looked at me and said I was fine."

"Oh."

"You trust yourself, don't you, Doc?" Marty was trying not to giggle. The scientist turned farrier gave him an exasperated look.


"So what do we do?" Marty adjusted his hat and appraised himself in the mirror for a moment, admiring it.

Doc pulled on his duster and beckoned to Marty. "I haven't got any clients coming in today so we go out to the cave and bring back the DeLorean."

"How exactly? We haven't got a tow truck here this time?" deja vu was starting to envelope the teen.

"We have horses, Marty!" Doc opened up the door to the fenced in grazing area and whistled. "Where do you think the term 'horsepower' was coined?"

"Coined?" Marty raised an eyebrow.

"Come on!" Doc pulled 4 horses off the grazing field and brought along a 2 horse harness and rigged it so that the car's weight would be evenly distributed between the horses.

"Doc, I don't know how to ride." Marty stroked a piebald while a stallion nudged his hand jealously, looking for attention. Doc taught him the basics of saddling up a horse, then gave him some simple instructions to follow. Once Marty was confident enough, they went across the desert landscape, tracking down the DeLorean in the cave. As if in greeting, the big black bear came out and snarled, but Doc scared him off with a wild shot.

The scientist grabbed a small lightweight chain and hooked it to the horses' harness in the center, securing it down with an iron lynch pin, then he went underneath the DeLorean, found the tow bar, and fastened the iron caribbena to the tow bar carefully. Marty watched him, stroking the stallion's mane as Doc clambered out and strapped the car cover on.

Both of them mounted their horses and beckoned to the team, which obediently pulled the car out of the cave. It took about 2 hours going at a medium pace across the plains, but eventually they got it into the barn. Doc and Marty untethered the horses, allowing them back into the grazing paddock and giving them plenty of fresh water to drink. Marty laughed as the piebald and the others dropped and rolled to get rid of the harness feeling on their backs. A Morgan mare snorted at the stallion and both began to engage in play fighting.

"Whoa Doc, I'm all done in for tonight." Marty yawned as he took off his boots.

"Me too, Marty." he washed the dirt off his face and undressed.


Over the next few days, upon discovering that Doc had volunteered to bring in the new schoolteacher, he and Marty went off to the plains with several teams of horses to try to get the DeLorean up to speed, but the horses couldn't do it. They tried liquor in substitute of gas, the car spit out the fuel injection system.

"Doc, why don't we just use the DeLorean in the mine and get that running?"

"Marty, if we do that, you'd never be able to come back here!" Doc scolded. "Fuel injection systems weren't very common in the fifties anyway and it wouldn't work!"

"Even so-"

"No, Marty. I would still need specialized tools to transplant the system from one car into another. Even after I got it done and we do this again, it'll end us right back where we started! No, we have better chances somewhere else."

Marty still looked ready to argue his point but Doc hushed him up. "You forget, Marty, that fuel injection systems in the fifties were a lot bigger and more cumbersome and my counterpart would never be able to fit a fifties system into an eighties sportscar."

"Oh." Marty let it go.


"They think about it all the time." Marty fastened on the gunbelt and revolver, staring after Seamus and Maggie. He'd been worried about Doc, since his mind didn't seem to be able to concentrate on anything else but Clara since he accidentally met her. Still, Doc had been in the shop part of the barn the past two nights, ironing down the plan for them to get home and creating something he wasn't telling Marty about just yet. Marty had learned to like some of the facets about living in the west, the care of horses and livestock, the friendliness of the people, and the general comradeship shared by everyone.

Feeling like he wanted some solitude, Marty broke away from his well wishers and mounted his horse, going on the outskirts of town to watch the moon rise. He stayed out for 2 hours, contemplating his life and time traveling, then went back to the livery where Doc hadn't come home yet.

Taking the saddle off his horse, he rubbed the Morgan mare down and fed her, grinning as she teased him by nudging her head under his arm, asking for a scratch. He obliged her, then went into the bedroom part of the house adjacent. If it hadn't been for him, Marty knew that Doc would have been shot and slowly died on Monday. He'd been wondering about that part of his friend's fate, and now he knew.

Yawning and getting into bed, Marty couldn't sleep for a long time.


"You've gotta do what you've gotta do. And I've gotta do what I've gotta do." Doc dismissed Marty by walking away, thinking of Marty's accident in the future. He'd been racing Needles, a local tough guy, when he hit a Rolls Royce at high speed and almost died. The truck he'd gotten was a write off and Doc had been quite devastated to hear of the accident. From what he'd been able to piece together, he'd been working at his lab when Marty's mother called and told Doc that Marty wasn't coming in that day. Doc imagined his reaction would be little more than a "Great scott!" and a "What can I do?"

Marty's hand was broken from the accident and through support from his family and Jennifer, he'd begun to put his life back together. His hand had healed but it was never what it had been pre-accident, and Marty had given up on his music. The teen had gone down into a depression that his mother insisted that he get help for. Doc knew from the newspaper archives that Marty had been all right, yet nothing had been said about his accident from a personal point of view. Doc needed more information, so he'd hunted down Jennifer and once she got over her initial shock of seeing Doc again, she'd confided to him everything that had happened since.

"Marty was never the same since that day, Doc," she'd told him, looking older than her years. "he'd get angry sometimes and wouldn't tell anyone what he was thinking. His mom made him see a shrink and an anger management specialist and he improved, but he wasn't the same after that. It was like he'd lost a part of himself."

"I can imagine," Doc agreed. "did he see me at all?"

"Yes. You were pretty distraught over the whole mess. Marty was in a coma for a little while and when he was starting to wake up, he'd say your name."

Doc paled up. "It's OK, Doc. It's in the past now, but he changed. He gave up on music, something you know he lived and breathed for his whole life. I married him and we have two kids, but he's still not the same person I knew before the crash."

"I have no doubt, Jennifer." Doc said slowly as he stood up.

Her hand caught his as he moved towards the door. The future Marty would be arriving soon and he didn't want to see him. Doc turned and looked at Jennifer, whose eyes were flooding up with unshed tears. "Please change his future, Doc," she begged. "he deserves so much more than what he has."

"I will do it, Jennifer." he put his hand on hers and smiled at her kindly. "If I didn't care so much for Marty, do you think I'd be here right now?"

She smiled thinly. "You two always were such great friends. I'm glad he has you, Doc."

"Me too." Doc didn't want to do it, but he zapped her with his sleep inducer to make her think it was all a dream.

Putting that memory out of his mind, Doc walked into the livery where he shoed several horses and told his clientele that he was leaving town. When the clients had left, Marty came back in from his wandering and silently helped Doc out with hitching up the horses and attaching them to the DeLorean again. They rode out to the starting point of their plan and spent most of the day putting the DeLorean on the rails. Doc stood up the tires in a straight line on one side as Marty checked the hoverboard.

When twilight came, neither having said much to the other, as their minds had been preoccupied with what they had spoken about that morning. Doc wired the new gauge on the dashboard, putting it in a custom designed holder for it and checked the time circuits.

Marty finished what he was working on and Doc told him the truth about what he was thinking on. He knew Marty's response was going to be less than positive.

"There's no denying it. I'm in love with Clara."

"Oh, Doc!" Marty grunted, standing up. "We don't belong here! Neither one of us! It could still be you who gets shot tomorrow!" he fished out the photograph he had taken and flashed it at Doc. "This tombstone can still be in your future!"

Doc still looked like he was in a trance. "Marty," he took the photograph. "the future isn't written. I have to live my life the way I believe is right. In my heart."

Marty gulped as he picked up the lantern. "Doc, you're a scientist. You always tell me, what's the right thing to do up here?" he tapped his forehead.

Doc blinked. "You're right, Marty." his friend's sigh of relief was evident as he threw the switch. The DeLorean backed onto the rails with a small amount of screeching.

"Wow, that worked great." Marty walked over to inspect the time machine as Doc said something that he didn't quite catch. "Look Doc, maybe we should just... I don't know, maybe we should just take Clara with us."

Doc turned to him. "To the future? She'd never understand. You reminded me Marty, I'm a scientist so I must be scientific about this. We will proceed as planned and as soon as we get back to 1985, we will destroy this infernal machine. Traveling through time has become much too painful." there was an edge to Doc's voice that Marty recognized. It was longing for Clara, like forbidden fruit he knew he couldn't have but wanted it anyway. Marty chose to wisely leave Doc be and fell asleep as soon as he'd hit the bedroll.

The scientist couldn't sleep, twiddling the little trinket Clara had given him the night before. It was about 11 when he decided to go and be honest with her, which didn't end well. Doc finished the night at the saloon, rabbiting on about the future with the local barflies until Marty came in to get him Monday morning.


After Doc left in his new time train, Marty and Jennifer picked up the parts of the DeLorean and slung them in the back of Marty's new truck. They went off to the dump and tossed the car parts into a mountain of car trash, keeping the time components hidden. Marty took the flux and the time circuits, stashed them under his bed and forgot about them.

Two weeks later, Marty was ill in bed, having picked up a bad cold from one of his bandmembers that week. His pile of correspondence was laying in an untidy heap at the foot of his bed when he picked up a letter from a record label. Excitedly he combed through it, reading the cherished word accepted at the very bottom. He whooped and cheered, then his throat decided to remind him it was in a fragile state and he coughed loudly for a few minutes. His mother came in to administer to him, gave him medicine and told him to go to sleep.

Late that night there was a constant knocking against his window which woke him up. Marty groaned, feeling the first flush of a fever come to aggravate his condition. He unlocked the sash and opened up the window, seeing Doc standing outside.

"Marty!"

"Hey Doc," Marty said raspily amid a dry cough. The scientist frowned in concern.

"Marty, are you all right?"

"I'm sick, Doc. I'm not all right." he winced as his throat flared up a bit.

"I'm sorry Marty, I didn't know you were sick."

"It's all right, Doc. What did you want?"

"I came by to let you know that Clara and my family will be moving here! I'll stop by next week to see if you feel up to helping us fix up the farmhouse."

"Sure thing, Doc."

"Marty! Feel better soon!" Doc waved and left the yard. Marty shut the window and hustled back to bed.


END