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1985

Doc had told Marty and Jennifer that their futures were not yet written.

But neither of them could forget the future they had seen in that possible 2015 – one where Marty had been a mediocre desk jockey.

***

Sitting in the passenger seat while Needles challenged Marty to a race, all Jennifer had been able to think was that this was the beginning of everything she had seen in the future. He had never been able to stay cool when someone challenged his bravery. Her heart sank as he revved the engine, told her to hang on. Jennifer didn’t know what was going to happen, but she had a sick feeling that she wasn’t going to like it.

Then, when he’d put the truck in reverse, when they had stopped in the middle of the road, she had just stared at him. “Did you do that on purpose?”

“Yeah,” Marty replied. “You think I’m stupid enough to race that asshole?”

She hadn’t said what was on her mind, that actually she had thought he was going to act stupid because Needles got under his skin, that it wouldn’t have been the first time…

Then they had watched as Needles’ truck almost hit a Rolls-Royce.

Their truck would have hit it, Jennifer realized. They would have hit the Rolls. It would have been the accident that they were still talking about thirty years later, because it had screwed up Marty’s entire life.

The note might have erased itself before her eyes, but Jennifer would never forget what it had said.

***

Seeing that his son was a hot-headed idiot in the future had been a game-changer for Marty. He knew what it was like to be the son of a guy people laughed at. Before he and Doc had made their first trip to the past, Marty had lived it every day.

It wasn’t that he hated his father. George McFly was likable enough, but seeing how people laughed at him and discounted him – how George McFly always took whatever crap people dished out – had always made Marty angry. A lifetime of jerks like Strickland telling him that he was just like his old man, that no McFly had ever amounted to anything in the history of the town had made Marty swear that he would never be like George McFly. He was never going to let someone like Biff Tannen push him around.

Then he’d taken his unplanned trip to 1955.

Not only had Marty been given the chance to deck Biff, to put a lifetime of anger into one punch, but his accidental interference had given George McFly the chance to stand up to the guy who had bullied him. George McFly had laid Biff out with one punch, and that had changed everything.

He had come back to a 1985 where his father was successful, his mother wasn’t prematurely aged, and the story of how his parents met had become a thousand times more interesting. Even Marty didn’t get bored with the story, and he had been there for most of it.

His parents had built a life that was better than the one that only he remembered.

Yet somehow he had ended up just like the old George McFly. He had become a washed-up has-been with anger control issues, blaming all his misfortunes on someone else. He had been bitter where his father had merely pathetic, maybe because he’d had a chance for more.

Doc had taken him to that future in an attempt to make things better, and at first they had only made it worse – partly because Marty had tried to be greedy. He would never forget that horrible nightmare-1985, where Biff Tannen was rich, powerful, and married to Marty’s mother. Where he had murdered George McFly, and tried to do the same to Marty.

He and Doc had fixed it, finally – and the DeLorean had been destroyed. No more time traveling for him, Marty decided. He would get to the future the old-fashioned way – one day at a time.

When Needles tried to provoke him, Marty remembered his ancestor Seamus McFly telling him about the brother who’d been knifed in Virginia City, remembered Doc saying something about an accident and then refusing to say anything else. He had chosen not to race Needles.

The sight of Needles’ truck almost hitting the Rolls-Royce – the Rolls he would have hit if he had been racing – made Marty wonder if that was what Doc had been trying to warn him about.

Marty promised himself that he would not screw up his future. He’d make it a good one, just like Doc had said.

***

2015

Over the next thirty years, Marty received the occasional letter or visit from Doc Brown. After their travels to the future, and all the mayhem that had caused, he had confined his time travels to observing the past with Clara and the boys.

Marty was glad his friend had found happiness, but he missed him. He owed Doc more than he could ever repay. After all, if he’d never traveled back to 1885 and met his own ancestor, he didn’t think he would have ever learned to stop letting people provoke him with the word “chicken”. He would have wrecked the new truck, and busted his hand, and become a failure.

He didn’t know what else they might have accidentally changed, but the future was a lot different than the one he’d seen. People were definitely dressing a lot better, but he had been a little irritated that the hoverboards and flying cars had never materialized.

But Marty couldn’t really complain.

Maybe he didn’t have a hoverboard, but who cared if the car could fly when you were deciding between the Porsche and the Jag? Marty McFly was a household name for music fans, and he owed a lot of it to Doc Brown. His breakthrough song had been a fun number called “Out of Time”, a song with a backstory that no one would ever believe was true. He had retired from touring two years ago, with more money than he and Jennifer could ever spend.

This year, he’d been offered the chance to be one of the hosts on a music reality show. He never told a band they were too loud, and always reminded them that if they put their mind to it, they could achieve anything. It was a pretty sweet life, Marty thought. He had a hot wife who still loved him after twenty-five years of marriage, a trio of awesome kids, several Grammys with his name on them, a beautiful home outside Hill Valley, and millions of reasons to be happy in the bank.

He even thought the Tannen-McFly feud that seemed to exist throughout history might be about to end. Griff Tannen had dropped by last week to pick up his daughter Emma for a date. The kid seemed okay, Marty thought, but it was still weird.

It was a good present, he thought. He bet the future would be even better.