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May 13, 1983

Emmett hefted the axe back over his shoulder, frowning at his handiwork. It's not as if he'd ever been an expert at splitting wood, not even given he'd taken up the axe a handful of times as a teenager on especially cold nights when Clarissa, relieved of kitchen-and-housekeeping duty, had long since gone home and Emmett's mother had complained of a chill in the parlor once the fire had gone out. His thoughts flashed back to the present, where the reality of things was that his electricity had been turned off yet again in spite of the fact he'd paid up (late).

Hill Valley was experiencing unusually chilly evenings. He'd had it with Einstein's whining.

The space behind the garage he'd called home for some twenty-one years now wasn't so much a back yard as it was a compressed storage space. Anybody else in town who happened to spot it through the chain-link fence didn't hesitate to use the term junkyard, at which Emmett took umbrage not on account of the word itself, but because of the tone in which they tended to say it.

Emmett sighed and positioned another log on the flat, sandy patch of grass he'd been using as his chopping-block. He lifted the axe from his shoulder one-handed, repositioning his right hand above his left. "You'll go down the middle this time if you know what's good for you."

From inside the building at Emmett's back, Einstein began to howl in high-pitched alarm.

"Damn it!" Emmett shouted mid-swing, startled, executing another woefully uneven split.

Inexplicably, Einstein's distressed racket had transformed into a cacophony of yapping.

Emmett tossed the axe aside, not especially caring that it clanged off the fence, startling the stray tabby that had been prowling for mice along the perimeter. He collected the incongruous pieces of wood, hefting them against his hip as he strode across the few feet to his back door. "There had better be a reasonable explanation for this, Einie," he said sternly, letting the wood clatter to the floor as he stepped inside. He dusted off his hands, inspecting them for splinters. "If you expect—"

He looked up, squinting through the oil-lamp-punctuated dimness to where Einstein was still barking and dashing back and forth. Dusk-light through the window of Emmett's front entrance was faint, ethereal, casting the skin of the intruder Einstein had backed up against it in an ashen glow. Whoever it was, they weren't that tall, and Emmett could hear soft, swallowed whimpers between each harsh breath.

Young, he thought. Scared.

"Please don't hurt me!" said the intruder, one palm flat against the door, the other curled around some small object, as Einstein jumped up in an attempt to give the kid's face a welcoming lick.

"You're lucky I don't believe in a more dangerous form of home security," Emmett sighed, inferring from the tone of voice that he was likely dealing with somebody in their early to mid teens. He went for the nearest oil lamp, which was on his kitchenette counter, and brandished it before him like he'd have once done with a candle down the dark stairwells of his family home.

"Jesus, that's bright," the young man complained when Emmett got close enough to shove the lamp about three inches from his face. Einstein, who had settled down on Emmett's approach, helpfully licked the kid's hand. "Aw, gross," he said. "That's disgusting. Down!"

Emmett stood petrified for a moment, utterly fascinated. Whoever the kid was, he had the clearest, most inquisitive eyes Emmett had ever seen. He narrowed his own, hunching a bit closer. If there was any malice in the kid's motives for breaking in, he couldn't detect any visual evidence.

"You might want to, ah," said the kid, holding up his closed hand, making a dramatic show of unpalming the spare key that Emmett kept under his mat, "hide this somewhere more creative."

"You climbed the fence?" Emmett demanded, snatching the key from him. "I have it padlocked."

"Yeah," said the kid, shoving his hands in his pockets, watching nervously as Emmett set the lamp aside on the work-top next to the automatic can-opener. "It wasn't too hard. I'm, uh, good at that."

"Kudos for resourcefulness," Emmett grudgingly replied, whistling for Einstein to follow him over to the sofa as he went for the other oil lamp, which was on the end-table. "Get up here, boy," he said, patting one of the cushions, and the dog obeyed. "That's right. Stay put. Our visitor's rattled."

"I seriously had no idea you were home," said the kid, who still hadn't budged. "It was dark. All they wanted me to do was take a few pictures and—" He gestured at the space. "Look around."

"They being?" Emmett asked pointedly, returning with the second lamp to where his unlikely company stood. He could see more of the kid now, and the picture was pretty standard for your average male teenager in Hill Valley: red-and-white sneakers, not so battered that they hadn't seen more than a few months out of the box; trendy blue jeans, well-worn; t-shirt with some incomprehensible band logo on it, ditto; denim jacket with paisley wrist turn-ups and a few unusual pieces of flair, wait—Emmett squinted. The kid's eyes were unbelievably bright.

"Needles!" the kid shrieked, as if Emmett had continued his interrogation verbally rather than via silent scrutiny. "Doug Needles! He's an asshole! I only did it because he promised to leave me alone for the few weeks we have left in school! It's almost summer vacation, you know?"

"Ah," Emmett said, stepping back from his inspection, setting the oil lamp next to its fellow. "Bullies, I could tell you a thing or two about," he sighed, "but something tells me you're well versed."

"You sure know how to make a first impression," the kid griped, finally stepping away from the door, shaking as he removed his hands from his pockets and wiped them on his jacket. "I'm Marty," he said, hand extended like a peace offering. "Marty McFly. I live over in Lyon Estates. My dad, George, is an accountant?" he prompted helpfully. "Um. Do you know my parents?"

"I don't," Emmett said, taking Marty's hand, shaking it curtly—once, twice—before letting go. "And I'm sure you'll have had the presence of mind to read my name off the van. You don't strike me as careless, not if you had the sense to look for a key before smashing a window."

Marty shook his head vehemently. "No way," he insisted. "I wasn't gonna damage anything." He rocked on his heels, glancing over at Einstein. "You're Doc Brown. I don't know what the E stands for."

"You never gotten curious and looked me up in the phone book?" Emmett asked, smiling in spite of himself. "I think you'll find they've misspelled my name, no matter how many times I've told them to correct it. Emmett," he said. "With two Ts. They've managed to leave off one since the fifties at least. I haven't the faintest idea how many more angry missives it's going to take."

"Missives?" Marty echoed, but it took only a few seconds for his eyes to light up again. "Oh, wait. We covered that in English class. Vocab test." He smacked his temples with his palms, and Emmett fought the urge to grab the kid's wrists to prevent him from hurting himself. "That means, um—long official letters."

"Yes," Emmett said, full-on grinning at him now. "Swiftly remembered, and under duress, too."

Marty frowned. "You're gonna have to explain that one," he sighed. "I'm no genius like you."

"It means forcible restraint or detainment," Emmett said, "and it's not quite the word I wanted."

"You're right," Marty pointed out, reaching for the doorknob. "I could just walk out of here—"

Emmett gave him a disapproving look. "Not without reassuring me you won't pull this stunt again."

Squeezing his eyes shut, Marty nodded in embarrassment. "Yeah, okay. Sorry. I'm a jerk."

"I believe it's your schoolmates who fit that description," Emmett relented. "Apology accepted."

Marty's eyes flew open, dazzling as they caught the light. "You must be a pretty cool guy, Doc—ah—Emmett," he faltered, his gaze shifting from relieved to questioning. "Doctor?"

"As long as you're not making fun, you can call me whatever the hell you want," Emmett said, reaching past Marty for the doorknob. Marty jumped out of the way as Emmett opened the door for them, resignedly marching into the dusk as Emmett gestured him out. On a whim, Emmett followed him, closing the door behind them both. He locked it, pocketing the key. "Hungry?"

"Nah, I already had—wait, what?" Marty asked, tilting his head. "Are you asking me to dinner or something? Listen, you've already been way too nice to me, Doc, and I don't—"

"Burger King's right here," Emmett replied, "and I'm feeling peckish. Do you want anything?"

Marty rubbed the side of his neck, glancing over at the drive-through window. "I could eat."

Emmett kept the set of his mouth neutral, but he couldn't help but cringe as he studied the kid again. Skinny for his age, whatever that was; maybe not too well looked-after at home given his unkempt hair. The quirky jacket adornments were still a surprise: round badge reading ART IN REVOLUTION, abstract boomerang, guitar. Was Marty a musician? If so, loving one's craft enough to wear it like a medal was something Emmett understood. "What year are you in school?"

"I'll be fifteen exactly a month from today," Marty said, settling into something of a comfortable slouch, arms folded across his chest. "Just finishing ninth grade. I'll be a sophomore in the fall."

"I've got a business proposition for you," Emmett said, having already decided that this kid, having far more in common with Emmett's younger self than he'd ever have expected, would be perfect for the task he had in mind. "It's not every day Einstein takes to somebody. Usually, he'll just run, hide, and bark from cover. Biggest scaredy-cat in the world when it comes to strangers."

"You want me to be your dog-walker?" Marty blurted. "Don't you have any time to do it?"

"There are never enough hours in the day," Emmett agreed placidly, "and I've got some off-site work, as you probably know, that keeps me intermittently occupied. What do you say we hash it out over burgers and fries? Or are you more of the chicken-sandwich type? Milkshakes? No?"

Abruptly, Marty burst out laughing. It was the most uplifting sound Emmett had heard all day.

"I like everything, Doc," he said, reaching to pat Emmett awkwardly on the arm. "About that job?"

"I'm afraid the offer won't bear much negotiation," Emmett replied, fishing the padlock key out of his back pocket as Marty followed him to the gate, "but I think you'll find it's fair. You get paid, Einstein gets company that isn't me for a change, and your tormentors get satisfaction."

"Wait a minute," Marty said, gladly slipping out ahead of Emmett, scuffing his toe against the curb as Emmett locked up again. "D'you mean you're gonna let me take some photos of your place?"

"I'll do you one better," Emmett said, leading him along the fence periphery until they'd reached the back of his residence, site of his failed lumber-cleaving attempts. "See that junk? Take your pick."

"Heavy," Marty breathed, peering through the links. "Great. You've got yourself a deal."


September 21, 1984

Marty sat on the front steps of the high school, picking idly at a loose thread on his jacket. He'd propped his skateboard against the next step down, and he kept inadvertently knocking it over. This time, the clatter was accompanied by a rush of sneakers, denim-covered legs, and ominous laughter.

One of the guys picked up Marty's skateboard before he could reach it; meanwhile, somebody else had him by the shoulders from behind. Judging by the three guys who now stood in front of him on the pavement at the foot of the stairs, one of them with the skateboard tucked under his arm, the offending party who had him—well, shit, had him under duress—was probably Needles.

"Where's your girlfriend, McFly?" Needles asked, giving Marty a mock shoulder-rub before knocking him forward so hard his teeth rattled. "Did daddy-dearest pick her up already? Leave you all by your lonesome? How come your lame-ass big bro hasn't come to pick you up yet, huh?"

"Dave's working the late shift," Marty sighed, his fingers tightening on his knees. "Two till ten, but what the hell do you care?" He swore under his breath as Needles shook him. "I've got another ride, and he'll be here any minute, so you might as well go and spray-paint the back of the bowling alley or infiltrate the drive-in or whatever charming plans you've got for—"

"Those are some big words for a little punk like you, McFly," said Needles, hauling Marty to his feet. For several terrifying seconds, Marty thought Needles might drop him on the pavement and order his goons to kick the shit out of him, but that didn't happen. Needles set him down more or less on his feet, joining the other three in raucous laughter as Marty stumbled. "So who's comin', huh? Your babe of an older sister? Listen, I'd date her in a heartbeat," Needles drawled.

"Shut your fucking mouth," Marty hissed, staggering to his feet. "I'm really, really not in the mood for this right now, okay?" He turned to face the guy who had his skateboard—Corey or Carey or some pretentious goddamn name like that. "How about you give that back?"

"Oh-ho!" Needles crowed, leaping down from the stair on which Marty had been sitting, landing uncomfortably close. Before Marty could wheel around, fists raised, Needles had him around the neck in an uneasily light choke-hold. "Chicken-man here thinks the deal we did like a year and a half ago still stands, is that it? Sorry, McFly, but you haven't been paying your rent."

"I don't even know what you want with all that crap!" Marty exclaimed, latching onto Needles's forearm with all his strength as it bore up taut against his Adam's apple. "You do realize I've been bringing you all the junk that's too busted for Doc to use, right? That's not proof enough?"

"I figure it's high time you bring me something more valuable," Needles suggested, letting up for a split-second only to tighten his hold again. Marty gagged. "Old coot like him's gotta have some cash hidden away somewhere, don't you think? Or has he been paying you with somethin' else?"

Oh Jesus, Marty thought, digging his fingernails into Needles's sleeve. Here it comes.

"See, me and the guys have a theory," Needles went on, backed by jeers and whistles from the peanut gallery. He gave Marty a sharp jerk; Marty's feet went out from under him. "We figure you must like it rough, you know what I mean? Maybe you aren't such a chicken after—"

The sound of someone's vehicle screeching up was enough to scatter Needles's posse. Carey or Corey or whoever dropped Marty's skateboard; at this point, Marty's eyes had begun to water with the pain of dangling there, so he couldn't quite see. He forced out a ragged breath: "Help!"

"You'll let go of him before I march right in there and let Strickland know just what kind of reprehensible institution he's running," said Doc's voice, low and angry and terrifying in a way Marty could never have dreamed in a million years. "Are we clear on that, Needles?"

"Uh," said Needles, apparently stunned that Doc knew his name. "Shit," he said, releasing Marty without warning, and tore off as fast as his unflattering Reebok sneakers could carry him.

Marty sprawled back against the steps, his tailbone smarting, wind temporarily knocked out of him. He couldn't do much more than stare up at Doc, who looked about like he wished he'd taken off after Needles in hot pursuit. It took a few seconds for Doc's furious expression to soften, for him to take a deep, unexpectedly shaky breath before blinking down at Marty in concern.

"Are you all right?" he asked bending to offer Marty both of his hands. "That can't have been..."

"Pleasant, no," Marty managed, latching onto Doc's wrists for all he was worth. He was so relieved to let Doc haul him to his feet that he didn't really even think much of the fact he'd need to check his weight as he keeled forward; the end result was that he staggered full-force into Doc and ended up clinging to him in something that wasn't quite a hug. Doc stood there and took it, stunned, before patting Marty stiffly on the back. Marty took a few more breaths into Doc's shirt before letting go.

"Does that happen more often than you're letting on?" Doc asked, arms folded. "Don't lie to me."

Marty brushed himself off, his cheeks burning, retrieving his skateboard and inspecting it for damage so he wouldn't have to meet Doc's eyes quite yet. "Nah, not really. It's the usual."

"Your usual isn't usual for most people, Marty," Doc chided, setting a reassuring hand on Marty's shoulder. For the most part, touch between them was something easy, even something they'd both come to welcome. Come to expect. "Unless you're me at your age, I suppose. It's...rough."

"Yeah, you'd mentioned," Marty sighed, patting the back of Doc's hand. "That really sucks, Doc."

"Right now, it's not me I'm worried about," Doc said, his eyes narrowing with singular intensity on Marty's hand covering his own. He let his eyes dart from there to Marty's, his haunted expression lasting only a few seconds. "Let's get on our way," he said, clapping Marty's shoulder again, cleverly dislodging Marty's hand in the process. "Einstein's bound to start worrying, and those gears aren't going to adjust themselves. Are you ready for the trial run? How about dinner first?"

"Dinner would be great, Doc," Marty said, swinging into the passenger-side seat of the utility van while Doc took his place behind the wheel. "Mom knows this stuff's gonna take all night, so I've got permission to stay over. I guess she's warmed up to the idea after those last couple times, you know? I come home fed and too tired to cause her any trouble. It's a win-win."

Doc stared hard at the steering wheel, his fingers hesitant on the ignition. "Marty, it may not be my place to ask, but what were those boys—" He turned his head, and there it was again: that frightened expression. Marty couldn't think of a single time he'd ever seen Doc scared. "Why?"

Marty took his turn to stare straight ahead, settling on the battered glove compartment handle. "Oh, you know," he said, gesturing vaguely. "Same kinda shit high-school guys always carry on about. It probably hasn't changed that much since you were a kid. Locker-room bullshit," he mumbled.

"Unless I'm very much mistaken," said Doc, quietly, pointing out the windshield, "we're nowhere near the lockers." He sighed heavily, finally starting the van. "This is serious, Marty."

"No, it's not," Marty snapped, glaring over at Doc while he maneuvered the van, ka-bump, off the high school's front curb. "There's not a word of truth to any of it, so—"

"Either this conversation ends now," said Doc, his eyes fixed on the road as he drove, "or I'm taking you straight home. This isn't the kind of thing I should talk to you about. It's your parents' prerogative—"

"Doc, my parents don't give a fuck," said Marty, his emotions running the gamut from annoyed to distraught in less than the space of one breath. "Mom's a drunk and Dad's either got his head in the clouds or jammed in the crook of Biff Tannen's arm. Are we clear on this?"

Marty fought off the tears that threatened to return; huh, so it hadn't just been the discomfort of dangling there while Needles mocked him, had it? This was, as Doc would put it, some serious shit. He was upset about every goddamn thing in the world he couldn't do squat about—and, worst of all, he just wanted Doc to stop driving and hold him again.

"Hey, it's..." Doc coasted to a stop at the intersection, reaching over to brush Marty's hand in hesitant, hopeful apology. "It's all right. Marty, it will be all right. Where should we eat?"

"Not Burger King," Marty sighed, turning his hand under Doc's so he could grab it tightly before Doc had the chance to pull away. "We go there too often. What about the diner. Actual sit-down?"

Doc squeezed Marty's hand in amicable defeat. "That's a bit rich for our blood, don't you think?"

"Nah, Doc," Marty said, not thinking too hard about how much better he felt. "Not if it's my treat."


November 5 - 6, 1955

Emmett couldn't wrap his still-throbbing head around the fact that he and this young man, this—this Future Boy, for lack of any more descriptive or civilized term from deep in the rattled recesses of his brain—had just for all intents and purposes towed his future time machine from the Lyon Estates building site to Emmett's garage without so much as being noticed.

"Welp," Marty remarked over the racket of the sliding door, which he brought down with practiced ease in spite of its weight, "that's a wrap." He dusted off his hands, yawning. "Good job, Doc."

"I couldn't have done any of this without your help, clearly," Emmett said, fidgeting with the sleeve of his overcoat as Copernicus trotted over to welcome him home. "And we have a lot more work to do. It's of vital importance to me that you're under no illusions about this. It'll be difficult."

"Difficult has never scared us before," Marty said, stripping out of his jacket, laying it nonchalantly across the hood of that endlessly bizarre vehicle he called the DeLorean as if it were quite a typical thing for him to do with the seemingly well-loved garment.

"I don't know what the vagaries of time have done to change me by 1985," Emmett said, retrieving Marty's jacket, noting the few adornments as he folded it over his arm, "but I can assure you that I have no such confidence as you seem to have that this is a task at which I can succeed."

"Listen, if..." Marty hesitated, and then brightened in spite of how exhausted he looked. "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. Do me a favor and remember that advice, all right?"

Emmett nodded, shrugging absently as he led them toward the door. "Sage words, Future Boy, I'll grant," he said, letting Copernicus trot out ahead of them. "Let's go up to the house. It's midnight."

"Are you gonna call me that the whole time I'm here?" Marty protested, jogging to keep up with Emmett and the puppy. "I've got a name, remember? Marty? Marty McFly?"

"Of course not, Marty," Emmett sighed, slowing his pace, grinning as Marty fell into step beside him. "Are you going to keep calling me Doc the whole time you're here?"

"But that's what I call you," Marty insisted, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Back in 1985."

"Do I particularly mind being called that in 1985? Surely the fact that you're not one of my students at HVCC should remove such an honorific from the equation. Yes, I've got a doctorate, but, by all accounts, you're my friend. Why in the world would I have insisted—"

"You didn't," Marty said, following Emmett up the front steps, waiting while he wrangled the key in the lock. "You told me, and I quote, that I could call you whatever the hell I want."

"Incredible," Emmett murmured, ushering Marty and Copernicus inside. "I must be pretty damn confident if I'm willing to let some—" He stopped, reconsidering his words. Some teenager? he thought, watching Marty kick out of his shoes with fluid, understated grace. The kid was easy on the eyes in a fashion to which Emmett wasn't at all accustomed, and it startled him. "If I'm willing to let somebody just call me the first thing they think suits. Why Doc?"

"Because Emmett didn't feel respectful enough," Marty said, "and Doc stuck."

Emmett slipped out of his shoes and hung up his overcoat, puzzling over the undercurrent to Marty's words that he couldn't seem to pin down. "Under what circumstances did we—no," he said, cutting himself short. "No, how foolish of me. I shouldn't ask. We've covered this."

"Something tells me it wouldn't hurt you to know," Marty sighed, "especially since you now know that meeting me is, ah, definitely an inevitability. I sneak into your place, Doc. In 1983."

Emmett blinked at him, hanging Marty's jacket on the adjacent peg. "Why would you do that?"

"Because I've got bullies at school who like to breathe down my neck," Marty confessed, his voice cracking slightly, as if the words distressed him, "and I'm too much of a chicken to refuse."

Marty's expression was so utterly and illogically heartbroken that Emmett couldn't prevent himself from taking Marty by the shoulders and shaking him gently. "You're no such thing," he insisted. "Marty, what you've been through in the past twenty-four hours undoubtedly took more courage than I've currently got in every atom of my being. You survived the impossible."

Marty's eyes fluttered, and, damn, light and shadow did things to the hue of them Emmett would doubtless struggle to forget any time soon. "Do you mean that, Doc? You think I'm brave?"

"I know so," Emmett said, letting go of Marty before further impulse got the better of him. He'd never been particularly attuned to offering physical comfort to people he'd only just met, but his first instinct where this baffling stranger was concerned was to maintain contact, to touch.

"Listen, I don't mean to be rude or anything," Marty mumbled, yawning again, "but I'm beat."

"Of course, of course," said Emmett, gesturing toward the staircase. "I've got more spare rooms than I know what to do with. You'll be well appointed while you're here. Try them all if you like."

Marty stared ahead, those clear eyes clouding with curious sadness. "One bed's all I need, thanks."

Emmett couldn't help but wonder at the source of this strangeness as he led Marty up the darkened staircase and through the hall, flipping light-switches as he went. What was the nature of his relationship to this astonishing, inquisitive young man? What wasn't Marty telling him? What shouldn't Marty tell him, in spite of the fact he'd let so much information slip already?

"I can hear you thinking from back here," Marty yawned. "Okay, where are you putting me?"

Emmett had to stop up his mouth and turn from the doorway in front of which he'd paused, because it was his own. "You can take any one of those few," he said, pointing to the two doors adjacent to his own and then the one directly beside the bathroom. "Slightly dusty, perhaps, but all made up."

"You should see what a mess my bed is at home," Marty muttered, heading for the door right next to Emmett's. "Something tells me that a little dust is the least of my worries, Doc."

Emmett didn't quite know what to say to that, especially not when Marty, in quite an unexpected turn, seemed to think nothing of unshouldering his suspenders and starting in on his shirt-buttons. Thank goodness for the oddly-colored undershirt, Emmett supposed. "I'll...see you in the morning."

"You too, Doc," Marty said, satisfied with the partial unbuttoning job he'd done on his shirt for the time being, and opened the guest-room door into the dark. "You too. And, hey—thanks."

"You're welcome," Emmett said, turning swiftly away from whatever else might tempt his eye.


November 11, 1955

Marty let his eyes skim across the black-and-white scientist portraits lining Doc's mantelpiece for what must have been the hundredth time. He'd grown so accustomed to them in their parceled-out 1985 locations in Doc's garage that it was downright eerie to see them in such an arrangement. Doc's fixation with old photographs and newspaper clippings was just part and parcel with his habit of clock-collecting, Marty had always figured. Time had more than one expression.

"I almost don't care if I never see George again till I'm back home," Marty sighed, pushing around the remainder of what he'd made them for dinner. Doc was no more a cook at the age of 35 than he was at the age of 65, so Marty realized he'd have to employ the slapdash skills he'd picked up for those nights when his mom was too tipsy to be trusted around a stove. Pan-fried chicken with pre-made herb mix, plus canned green beans fixed up with butter, wasn't too difficult.

Doc nodded, sitting very still beside him on the sofa. He'd finished his dinner a full five minutes ahead of Marty, had eaten what was on his place like a man starved. And he probably was, Marty figured, what with how often Marty knew he flat-out forgot to eat if somebody (sometimes Einstein, sometimes Marty) didn't remind him. "You've spent a lot of time with him this week."

"It's not that my dad isn't a cool guy in his own way," Marty sighed. "It's that he doesn't know it."

Doc shrugged, shifting his plate from his knees to the coffee table, wiggling his bare toes against the carpet. Doc didn't hesitate to run around the house barefoot, which was something Marty had never gotten to see back in 1985. The majority non-rug-covered garage floor wasn't necessarily something you'd want to brave without socks or slippers at a bare minimum.

"Perhaps you'll have instilled in him some sense of self-worth," he suggested. "Your pop isn't used to anybody giving him the time of day, let alone putting any effort into cultivating a friendship."

"He kept inviting me in to meet his parents," Marty sighed. "I would've loved to talk to my grandparents, see 'em while they're young. Me and Grandma Sylvia—we've always been close."

"Well, if you've done your work right," Doc said, threading his fingers in his lap, "you'll only have to see George one more time at the dance tomorrow night, and then we'll get you on your way."

"I just didn't think I'd be coming out of this with so many regrets," Marty said, tilting his head till he caught Doc's downward gaze, coaxing it up to meet his own. "I didn't think I'd want to..."

The next word died on Marty's lips even as Doc fixed him with an oddly mesmerized look.

"Stay," Doc said, and that use of the very word Marty had thought would remain unspoken nearly made him jump out of his skin, "right where you are. I won't be gone a moment. I've got to..."

Classic Doc, Marty thought, shaking his head, setting his plate on top of Doc's. He reached for a sheaf of magazines Doc had brought out to the coffee table for him a couple of evenings before. Doc subscribed to a bunch of stuff Marty hadn't ever remembered seeing around the garage: LIFE, TIME, Harper's Weekly, and The New Yorker. Marty flipped through the latest issue of the latter; unable, or perhaps afraid to focus on any of the text, he flipped back to the cover. Even the image had an ominous quality, an artist's representation of an apple tree dropping its fruit all over a country lane while a man in plaid nailed a sign to the tree.

Marty jumped when the camera-flash went off, dazed and blinking directly at the lens as Doc, sheepishly biting his lip, lowered the device in apology. He set the magazine aside.

"I hate to toss your own words right back in your face, but aren't you afraid what you just did might alter the course of history? You can't let anybody who knows me see that in the future."

"When am I ever likely to be showing my photo archives to your parents?" Doc asked, setting the camera on the far side of the coffee table before resuming his seat beside Marty. He seemed to be avoiding Marty's eyes again, which was un-Doc-like in the extreme. "I need incontrovertible evidence, Marty. One piece of it. When you're gone, what proof will I have this ever happened?"

"These clothes you got me, for one," Marty said amiably, attempting to lighten the mood, tugging on his collar. "You're a great judge of size, by the way. Not too shabby for picking these up without me there. George kept asking where the shirts came from. Maybe you should give him some fashion advice. Given he's gonna be running around with Lorraine on his arm, he'll need it."

"Your parents are both striking individuals," said Doc, pensively, "and I can see them in you."

"If you ever run into my Grandma Sylvia, oh boy," Marty said. "I've seen the black-and-whites on the wall back in 1985. When Grandpa Artie says she was a looker, he's not lying."

Doc cracked a smile at that, finally letting his eyes meet Marty's again. "I've already seen her."

"I guess maybe I didn't think about the fact you probably see my grandparents around town all the time, more so than the kids, and only needed to be told names to go with the faces," Marty replied.

"I've known what Sylvia looks like for quite a long time," Doc admitted. "I had one of her records."

Marty took a moment to process that, impressed. "Yeah. She was a lounge singer way back when."

"Late nineteen-thirties," Doc reminisced. "She didn't perform much past thirty-eight or thirty-nine."

"When I get back to 1985," Marty teased, lightly punching Doc's arm, "I'll tell her you're a big fan."

"I know you're a musician," Doc said, absently rubbing the spot afterward. "I ought to have played for you while you were here, but there hasn't been time for that. I suppose you know I like jazz."

"Your record collection and your jukebox are pretty eclectic, yeah," Marty said. "Even in 1985."

"Good," Doc said, folding and unfolding his hands in his lap. "Heartening to hear I stay engaged."

Marty tapped his fingers on his kneecaps, unable to pin down exactly how he ought to express the sheer importance of what Doc refused to let him say. You couldn't just tell somebody you knew the exact date and time of their death; furthermore, you couldn't just optimistically announce that you intended to prevent it. Any number of things could go wrong, and nobody would realize that quicker than Doc. Marty let his head loll back against the sofa and said, "Well, shit."

"What's wrong?" Doc asked, sitting forward and twisting his body so he could loom over Marty in concern. Well, that part of Marty's plan had worked, anyway: getting Doc's undivided attention and holding it. "Marty, it will be all right. Our plan's as fool-proof as it can be."

"Yeah, and a good thing, too," Marty sighed, leaning up a fraction, because now everything felt as close and crushingly intimate as, well, before. "Because we're pretty damn foolish, Doc."

Doc nodded, eyes half-lidded and somber, but he didn't pull away. He was so close now that Marty could grab his lapels if he wanted, pull him down and kiss him so hard that maybe he'd forget about the plan and the future and everything else. Marty wondered if it would be worth vanishing for.

When Doc touched Marty's face, brief and wistful before turning away, the effect on Marty was much the same as something far more overtly romantic would've been. He sat up straight, nerves jangling, while Doc cleared his throat and made a show of straightening the throw-pillows.

"I'd better get to bed," Marty said, propelling himself toward the staircase as fast as he could.

"Bed," he heard Doc echo in a distant, desolate tone behind him. "Yes, I suppose that's best."


May 13, 1983

When the day arrived, the day he'd convinced Marty to reveal to him in 1955 since he'd already so carelessly given him the year, the hour turned out to be all wrong. It wasn't dusk, and the electricity hadn't been shut down—Of course, Emmett thought, fingers tightening in Einstein's leash. Because Marty told me about the overdue payment, so I made a point of paying it on time.

This was all he could think as he stopped short in the middle of the sidewalk because George McFly, the HVCC English professor whose career as a writer of science-fiction short stories had lately taken off with a little consulting help from Emmett, was coming toward him with—well. To claim Emmett had never set eyes on Marty before now, post-1955, wasn't exactly the truth. He'd seen Lorraine around town with the children, had covertly watched their number increase from one to two to three. He'd caught glimpses of photographs in George's wallet when he'd insisted on paying after their semi-regular lunch meetings at the diner.

"Doctor Brown!" George shouted, too eager to wait till he and the all-too-familiar-looking teenager trailing along behind him (with hands buried paisley-cuffs-deep in his pockets) had gotten close.

"Professor McFly," Emmett said, taking careful note of how the dog trotted right up to the toes of Marty's sneakers as he and George approached. Marty backed up a step, wrinkling his nose, and then gave Doc a look that seemed to ask, Are you gonna keep your dog under control?

"This is the one I was talking about," said George, taking Marty by the elbow. "My youngest."

"I thought you'd said your daughter might be interested, given she's an animal lover," Emmett reminded him, but he offered Marty his hand anyway. "Emmett Brown," he said. "Your father and I go way back."

"He was working on this far-out weather experiment on the night I took your mother to the dance," George said, and Marty's expression suggested he'd heard this story a dozen times. "We got stuck in the downpour, so he gave us a lift home. Some relative of his who'd taken your mom to the dance bailed on us. Nice guy, but kind of flighty. Hey, fun fact: you ended up partly named after him."

"That's nice, Dad," Marty said, patting George's forearm as he graced Doc with an unexpected smile. "I know. Martin-your-great-grandfather's-brother and Marty the weird guy who hooked you up with Mom. Listen, Doctor Brown," he went on, side-eyeing Einstein, whose interest in Marty hadn't abated. "I'm, ah..." Marty ran his fingers through his hair. "Kinda nervous around dogs."

"Einstein has already decided he's fond of you, that much is apparent," Emmett said, snapping his fingers. Einstein sat obediently, glancing back and forth between George and Marty. "Which isn't as common a phenomenon as you think. He's usually shy of strangers. You'd be a good fit."

"Really?" Marty asked, glancing skeptically back down at the dog, but he was still smiling.

"Einstein's never minded me all that much," George offered, which was true enough.

"Maybe you're not such a bad guy," Marty said directly to Einstein, dropping to a crouch. He tentatively scratched behind the dog's ears, letting out an endearingly startled aaagh-sound when Einstein licked his chin. "Hey, it's not polite to kiss people without asking first!"

"Einie takes to training fast," Doc reassured him. "He's intelligent. Like most of his breed."

George folded his arms across his chest, beaming at Emmett. "How's this week's column coming?"

Not that well, I'm afraid, given the time machine's demanding more and more of my attention, Emmett wanted to say, but he bit his tongue. "I'm experiencing some writer's block."

"It'll come to you," George said, glancing down at Marty, who was actually talking to the dog under his breath in a fairly fond-sounding monologue. Einstein bumped Marty's nose with his own.

"This could work," Marty said, going slightly pink as he got to his feet, dusting off his knees.

Emmett kept the set of his mouth neutral, but he couldn't help but feel guilty as he studied Marty again, taking in every detail he hadn't seen in far, far too long. Marty looked younger and less sure of himself than he had in 1955, and that was to be expected. Those three unusual pins, arranged on his two-tone jacket with exacting care. "What year are you in school?" he asked.

"I'll be fifteen exactly a month from today," Marty said, settling into something of a comfortable slouch, arms folded across his chest. "Just finishing ninth grade. I'll be a sophomore in the fall."

"Marty's following in his siblings' footsteps," said George, proudly. "He made Honor Roll again."

"You're sure you want me to walk your dog?" Marty asked. "Don't you have any time to do it?"

"There are never enough hours in the day," Emmett agreed placidly, "and I've got some off-site work, as you probably know, that keeps me intermittently occupied. What do you say we hash it out over burgers and fries? Or are you more of the chicken-sandwich type? Milkshakes? No?"

Abruptly, Marty burst out laughing. It was the most uplifting sound Emmett had heard all day.

"I like everything," he said, reaching to pat Emmett awkwardly on the arm. "So, about that job?"

"I'm afraid the offer won't bear much negotiation," Emmett replied, feeling that stunning crackle of familiarity for the first time in twenty-eight years, "but I think you'll find it's fair. You get paid, Einstein gets company that isn't me for a change, and maybe you'll learn a thing or two."

"What do you mean, learn a thing or two?" Marty replied, giving his father a suspicious look. "Is this actually about that B I got on my science midterm? Are you gonna tutor me?"

"I may require some assistance in the laboratory from time to time," Emmett conceded, tugging on the leash when Einstein, restless, got up and started to pace. "If you need help, certainly I'd give it."

"Heavy," Marty said, holding out his hand for the leash. "You've got yourself a deal. Are we gonna grab some food, then, and discuss this business proposition? Hey, Dad—you wanna come?"

"No, son," said George, amiably, waving Emmett and Marty off. "I've got to meet your mother."

"Then you're gonna miss some amazing cuisine," said Marty, letting Einstein yank him over into the grass, getting a feel for the dog's pace. "If I lived next to Burger King, I'd end up there all the time, too."

"You'll probably get your wish," said Emmett, guiltily, waving at George as he strolled off. "I fear my idea of sustenance is all too often the aforementioned rota, minus the milkshakes."

"Then you need some real food in you for once," Marty said. "Doctor Brown. Emmett? Uh—"

In that instant, Emmett could think of nothing but the dinner Marty had made them on his last evening in a decade that, against all odds, this version of him hadn't even visited yet. His thoughts drifted from there to the photograph tucked away in the top drawer of his bureau, and then to the water-damaged, Scotch-taped letter that had gone ominously yellow with age.

"Call me Doc," suggested Emmett, feigning nonchalance. "The whole town does that anyway."

"I dunno," Marty said. "I mean, yeah, I guess my parents do. But your name is Emmett, right?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact," Emmett said, touched, "but the irony's that I may not always answer to it."

"I hear you on that one," Marty said, giving the leash a yank when Einstein got impatient. "I can't imagine answering to my full name, not even when Mom gets mad. Jeez, Einie! Relax!"

Emmett stared at him, realizing for the first time just how much of a challenge still lay ahead of him. Two more years of watching this bright, infuriating, wonderful young man become who he was always meant to be. Two more years of tweaking the flux capacitor. Two more—

I've got to survive what's coming, he thought, stepping forward as Marty gestured for him to follow along the sidewalk, which would inevitably lead to the diner. That vest had better work.


October 26, 1985

Marty was so terrified he scarcely felt the shock of the fall, the skid down that mulch-covered embankment, the rock that made painful impact with his kneecap, his hip, his ribs. He rolled and hit the ground, immediately getting to his feet, ignoring how badly his palms stung. He'd failed, he'd actually failed; that was all he could think as his heels hit the pavement, as he watched Doc take the volley of bullets with both hands raised high, knowing what he knew now—

You dipshit, that's the love of your life, his thoughts reeled as he watched his other self gun the DeLorean up to 88 and vanish in a blinding flash. The love of your life, and he's gone.

"Doc!" Marty shouted, racing to his friend's side. "Doc!" he repeated, dropping to his knees, hauling Doc onto his back with a wave of sick trepidation. "Oh," he gasped, unable to keep his eyes fixed on the sight, turning away. "No," he sobbed, not daring to glance over his shoulder, never mind that Doc was still warm against his side. There'd be blood sooner than not, he guessed; that sent him into a tear-stricken panic. He'd have to call 9-1-1, have to explain

Behind him, several faint intakes of breath, a flash of movement, almost didn't register as real.

Marty turned, meeting Doc's startled, equally disbelieving gaze. "You're alive," he managed.

Wordlessly, Doc went on looking at him for a split-second before unzipping his radiation suit.

"Bulletproof vest?" asked Marty, overcome with sheer, elated relief. "How did you know?" he demanded as Doc, still silent, reached into his pocket. "I never got the chance to tell you—"

Doc handed over a well-worn, glossy piece of paper folded in four. Marty knew what he was looking at even before he'd managed to fully open it, running his thumbs over the too-neat penmanship that nobody in school had ever let him live down. His pulse skyrocketed.

"What about all that talk," Marty chided, aiming for a tease, but falling horrendously short, "about screwing up future events—the space-time continuum?" All he wanted was to throw his arms around Doc and never, ever let go of him again, but he felt a measure of anger in the realization that Doc could've at least spared him the angst. He'd let Doc respond first.

"Well," Doc said, nodding slowly, resolutely, "I figured, what the hell?" There was a kind of apology in his tone, but there was wry humor in it, too. "Marty," he continued, taking a sobering breath, and his smile faded. "I don't know if you'll—that is, I'd understand if you can never—"

"Forgive you?" Marty asked, crawling closer, so far beyond caring about the mud on his jeans and the dull, bruised ache of his ribs that he wasn't even about to think twice about what came next. "Jesus Christ, Doc," he said, leaning in so close their noses brushed. "Doc...listen, can I..."

"If this pertains to a subject on which I once heard you lecture Einstein," said Doc, his voice gone unbearably soft, "then you'll have to articulate the question a lot more explicitly than that."

Marty closed his eyes, breathing hard through his nostrils. "I made it home and you're here and you're alive and, goddamn it, I want to kiss you, Doc," he gritted out. "Just like I wanted to last night—" Marty felt dizzy, devastated at the realization. "Thirty years ago. Shit."

Doc touched his cheek just as he'd done the illusion of twenty-four hours ago. Marty opened his eyes, no longer burdened with this particular relationship hurdle. It was thrilling and heartbreaking all at once, to think that Doc had not only managed to wait three decades for this moment, but also get around—fuck. Get around two years of Marty not even having a clue—

That's a lie, Marty told himself as Doc brushed his cheek again, basking in the contact. You knew a year and a half into this arrangement that you were starting to feel something and didn't have a goddamn clue what to do about it because Doc doesn't think like that—

"Except now you do," said Marty, wonderingly, not even caring that the statement out of nowhere would probably confuse the hell out of Doc. "Want to, I mean," he clarified hastily. "Do you?"

"What was the question?" Doc asked, as if he'd gotten completely distracted watching Marty's eyes.

"Want to kiss me, Doc," Marty sighed, rubbing his cheek against Doc's knuckle, which now just rested there. "We've already established that I want to kiss you, and, look, if we don't get out of here, there's probably gonna be trouble."

The kiss was so brief Marty almost wondered if he'd imagined it, because Doc was on his feet less than a heartbeat later, dashing about to collect every stray piece of equipment he could find. Inside the utility van, Einstein whimpered and pawed at the window. Marty jumped to his feet, kicking into gear; he helped Doc pack everything up, needing no direction whatsoever.

"We'll drive back to where you left the DeLorean," he said once they'd finished, helping Marty into the passenger seat of the van. "Fuel problem; I didn't check the lines too closely in 1955, did I?"

"I don't know, Doc," Marty said, waiting till Doc had gotten in the driver's seat. "You tell me."

"It's probable I'd have forgotten something in the rush of that week," Doc said, starting the ignition, and got them out of the parking lot by pushing seventy. "And my younger self had no experience with the complex mechanics of such an automobile; as I recall, it was utterly baffling."

Marty leaned against the door, grinning out the window as Einstein came up between them from the back, nosing at Marty's hand until Marty let him lick his palm. "Hey, boy," he said. "I'm home."

Following Doc in the DeLorean from their stop-off at the courthouse square wasn't exactly easy on Marty's nerves. Red was still awake on his bench, muttering to himself; he tried to engage Doc in conversation several times while he helped Marty push the DeLorean up into the van. Before joining Marty back in the van, job done, he gave Red five bucks and thanked him to keep quiet.

Doc hesitated once he'd started the ignition, his foot hovering between gas and brake pedals. "I should take you home," he said ruefully. "Your parents have always been conscientious—"

"You're kidding, right?" Marty asked, incredulous. "The worst I've ever gotten the times I've ended up at your place overnight without warning was griping from Mom at supper. They prefer it when I ask, sure, but—" Marty gave him a pleading look. "After everything we've been through," he said as calmly as he could manage, "did you actually think I was gonna leave you tonight?"

"Something tells me our memories differ on this," said Doc, hesitantly. He let out a slow, steadying breath, pulling them back into the street. "All right, Future Boy," he said. "How did we meet?"

"How the hell can you not remember that?" Marty demanded. "I broke into your garage in '83 because Needles and his groupies promised they'd leave me alone for the rest of the school year."

Doc shook his head, taking the turn that meant they were headed for his place; at that, Marty breathed a sigh of relief. "That's how you told me it would happen," he said with grim fascination, "but that's not how it ended up happening. Your father and I struck up a casual correspondence of sorts after your departure. He introduced me to you on the day you said we'd meet. Douglas Needles still bullies you at school, but it's never had anything to do with us."

"Jesus Christ," Marty muttered, leaning back in his seat. "Heavy, Doc. Does this mean..."

"What it means, I've come to gather," Doc replied, "is that the parents you're coming home to aren't the parents you remember. You told me about them in 1955. Some of the details don't add up."

"If I've now got parents who actually give a shit about my whereabouts, then, yeah, we might have a problem," Marty retorted, running his fingers through his hair as they came up on Riverside Drive. "Is there any precedent for me unintentionally crashing at your place?"

Doc tilted his head, as if reluctant to admit what he knew. "Now and then, yes," he said. "I keep the spare twin at the front made up for you. As long as you call home, there's never a problem with regard to running overnight experiments, although I can't possibly judge how they'd react to you having snuck out during the night, because you've always made it home before dawn."

"Same old, same old," Marty sighed. "At least that hasn't changed. Well, I'll risk it."

Doc didn't respond to that. He didn't say another word till they'd not only reached his residence, but also wrangled the gate open and got the utility van, burdened with the incapacitated DeLorean, situated in the meager side-lot Doc had retained for his own vehicle. Marty padlocked the gate without having to be asked, returned to the front door to find Doc holding it open for him.

"Hey," he said, once they were inside, the familiar space awash in darkness. "I remember this."

"Marty, I wish I could," said Doc, his tone one of quiet defeat. "All I have is your recounting—"

"Please stop," Marty whispered, already backing him up against the door. "Doc, please."

They met each other halfway, more than enough of an answer. This kiss, at least, was real—not too fleeting to quantify, not lacking emotion in the least. Marty groaned, pressing up into it; rather than push him away, Doc hitched him up closer, arms strained. They parted, gasping.

"God," Marty whispered, staggering with a wave of dizziness. "I'm tired. Maybe..."

"Sleep cures all ills," said Doc, cautiously brushing at Marty's hair. "And clears the head."

"Yeah," Marty agreed, heading over to the twin bed, finding it nowhere near the mess of Burger King wrappers he'd once remembered. There were a few sheafs of paper with Doc's handwriting all over them, plus a few books; these, he relocated to the floor, shoving them underneath where the plutonium case had been. He unclipped his suspenders and kicked out of his shoes, no nonsense, and then untucked his shirt. Doc stood motionless, watching him unbutton it, haunted.

"There won't be much room," he said hesitantly, but one firm, impatient nod from Marty was all it took to order him out of the radiation suit, bulletproof vest, and his sneakers. "However, I..."

"I'm not gonna sleep unless I know you're right here," Marty said, climbing onto the mattress, collapsing with a yawn. He rolled onto his side, facing the wall. "Not letting you out of my sight."

He listened while Doc whistled for Einstein to go over and settle down in his basket for the night. The lights, which they hadn't even bothered with, went on for a split-second. Doc did something that made a reasonable amount of noise; Marty realized he was removing everything from his pockets and setting them on any surface he could find. As the lights went out again, Marty smiled into the pillow. The mattress behind him dipped a few beats later, and Doc lay down beside him.

"Doc," Marty whispered, rolling over to melt against Doc's chest, sliding one leg across Doc's hips so that they fit more comfortably on the cramped mattress. "C'mere. Hey. Is this okay?"

Doc didn't even need to be prompted, gathering Marty so close all the breath rushed out of him.

"Try to rest," he murmured, lips lightly skimming Marty's forehead. "I'm not going anywhere."

Marty had never closed his eyes to anything so reassuring. On opening them again, he reacted to that unshakeable sense of warmth with a shiver. The room was cast in pale, curtain-filtered dawn, and he gradually became aware that he'd shifted almost completely on top of Doc during the night.

Wow, he thought, lifting his head to study Doc's sleeping features. We went down like a ton of bricks. Shifting a little, Marty squinted at the host of clocks ticking blithely away on the wall. 6:34 AM, are you kidding? he thought, turning his attention back on Doc.

Doc sighed, his eyes fluttering when Marty pressed an open-mouthed kiss against his lips.

"Hey," Marty said, drawing back just a little, biting his lip. Impossible to ignore their position now, what with Marty having settled more comfortably where he was. The tension between them pulled taut as a guitar-string, vibrating with harshly-held breath. "God, you're a sight for sore eyes."

Doc shifted under Marty like he couldn't quite help it, his expression troubled. There wasn't any polite way to point out the fact they were both hard, and what was the point in even articulating that, Marty wondered, when you both knew it? "I doubt the veracity of that statement," was all he could manage, taking Marty's face gently in both hands. "My hair's a fright at this hour."

And the kissing was great this time—oh, was it ever. It didn't take Marty that long to work out that Doc liked having his lower lip sucked and his neck nibbled and breath against his earlobe; Doc retaliated, an even quicker study, with strong fingertips kneading the length of Marty's spine. He was softer in practice than Marty would've expected, more delicate somehow. They were both a wreck after about five solid minutes, pushing against each other with no sense of shame.

"This feels—so good, Doc—oh God," Marty grunted, horrified at both his lack of articulacy and how much of a cliché it was to say something like that in bed. "Clothes?"

"Here," Doc whispered, pushing at Marty's shoulders till he got the message and rolled away. Focusing on getting out of your own pants wasn't a fair expectation at all when the person you wanted more than anyone else on earth, in any timeline, was awkwardly unfastening and shimmying out of his own without even getting up off the mattress. "Marty, I—Marty—"

"Gotcha," Marty said, kicking out of everything from the waist down except his socks; oh my God was he going to look back on this state of undress one day and cringe about it, but Doc wasn't in any less comical shape than he was by the time he got Doc's pants and underwear off, and that made him feel slightly better. He took a little bit of time to appreciate what he could see of Doc's skin, pale belly and chest with scant hair and scattered freckles, and oh yeah, his hard-on, there was that. Marty stroked him with one hand, unbuttoning Doc's shirt with the other.

Improbably, it was another of those moments between them when talking seemed superfluous. Marty sighed and settled back down, kissing Doc hungrily. Just enough skin against skin to drive them both wild was all he'd been aiming for. He figured not having any applied experience with this kind of stuff was going to do him in fast this time, and, at a guess, it was going to do Doc in, too. Marty responded to Doc's gasp by grinding against him harder. Shit, shit

How they'd managed to hit this piece of synchronization with less effort than the lightning, he really had no clue. Marty couldn't even muster embarrassment over the fact he was nearly screaming into Doc's pillow while Doc, under him, was lagging just slightly behind.

"Your eyes," Doc sighed. "From the first moment I saw you, so help me, your eyes."

"Which first moment, Doc?" Marty joked weakly, shivering through the aftershocks. "Jesus, ah." He tugged weakly at his tee, at the shoulder of his unbuttoned shirt, and then at Doc's. "I wanna get naked with you so bad right now. Can't even begin to tell you—"

And, well, that was new: the fierce, astonished pride that washed through Marty at the sight of Doc under him, the feel of Doc against him, lost and completely ecstatic in his arms. He kissed Doc, shifting his hips in response to the clutch and release of Doc's trembling fingers at the small of his back, loving the helpless sounds Doc stifled against Marty's lips while he was at it.

"All of them," Doc whispered at length, pressing the words to Marty's cheek. "Even the one I can't remember, the one I'll never have." He kissed Marty fiercely. "Two out of three isn't bad."

"You know how I feel about you, right?" Marty asked, stroking Doc's hair back from his damp forehead. Shit, they were so exhausted now they were both shaking, although the fact they'd both just come their brains out probably had something to do with it, too.

"Your actions at this juncture make it difficult to misread your intent," Emmett conceded, stroking Marty's cheek in return, "and I'm relieved to confess I feel the same. But at the same time, it's..."

"Tough shit, yeah, I realize that," Marty sighed, kissing Doc's forehead. "Keeping it on the down-low for a while is gonna bite. Don't tell me that we'll have to be careful, Doc. I know."

Doc rubbed his temples, but his expression was as giddy as Marty felt. "Don't remind me."

Marty nodded, satisfied for the moment. "Now, how about we work on this relationship thing?"

"I wasn't aware until—" Doc made an exasperated sound. "Recently, since thirty years ago is, to you, recently, that our relationship even needed work. What's your definition?"

"How about no more time travel till we figure out an alternative to plutonium?" Marty suggested.

"And once we accomplish that, Future Boy," Doc asked, tugging up the covers, an oddly sweet gesture in spite of the fact they'd just have to shed them again to clean up. "What then?"

"I wanna see the world with you like nobody else is ever gonna see it, Doc," Marty said, grinning, resting his cheek against Doc's. "Never mind time. It's the space thing we need to crack."

"I see your point," said Doc, thoughtfully. "We're somewhat limited to this continent at present."

"C'mon," Marty said, poking him in the ribs. "Let's shower, and then I promise I'll get outta here."

"I'm afraid the best I can offer, aside from a ride home, is drive-through breakfast," Doc lamented.

Marty kissed him, too happy to care. "Let's work on the food, too," he agreed. "But not right now."