Actions

Work Header

The Future is Past Us

Work Text:

:-October 26, 1985-:

Time travel began in Doc Brown's house.

If it were to make it into the history books, that's what it would say, Marty thinks. Maybe there'd be an image of the original drawing of the flux capacitor. The sketch that started it all. Off to the side it would say Emmett Lathrop Brown invented the time machine. Maybe there'd even be the story of him slipping in the bathroom, although they liked to keep things like history and science dignified, so maybe that would just get passed by. Maybe instead, they'd write down the first experiment of Einstein zipping a whole minute through time. This, Marty will learn later, looking through Doc's notes sometime in 1987, when he'd long since stopped thinking about silly things like time machines, was not the first experiment at all. The first experiment he'd stepped into a minute too soon. The first experiment was the house itself, and him, himself, whipping forward in time precisely twenty-five minutes. He will feel a little violated at having been hurled into the future without warning, but of course by then he will remember and forget time travel constantly and in another minute he will forget ever having read about the incident.

Time travel would have continued, forever, its constant presence keeping it from disappearing from memory, on a train, but -after Doc's lit up eyes calmed back down and he said with a healthy degree of contempt, "It's impossible, Marty; horses can't reach the necessary velocity." - it instead ended with them both bailing out of the DeLorean seconds before it was ripped apart on the railroad tracks. Had this change been known, Doc would have pondered the catalyst and renewed his interest in time travel ("But, Doc!" Marty would shout, acting as the equal and opposite reaction to the Doc's action, "What's it matter? I mean, we're here, we're home, right?"). But they remain clueless and time travel remains dead. This, the space time continuum decides, was precisely how it was meant to be.

They both laugh, startled; embrace, relieved; talk, excited.

Marty, with an exclamation, remembers Jennifer. He tips his hat jauntily to Doc in a joke he isn't entirely sure his friend understands and jogs on ahead, with a promise to meet up with Doc later thrown back over his shoulder.

:- -:

When he sees Jennifer, they both wind up babbling, squeezing weeks' worth of conversation into a few convoluted minutes. He talks of missing her and she talks about her dream of the future, which he, knowing it's true, finds a little more amusing than Jennifer cares for. He stops laughing, grabs both her hands, and tries to placate her with, "How 'bout a ride, huh? You get to be the first passenger."

"I'd like that," she says, smiling wide.

This, Marty decides as he starts the truck, is how the future should be. Great truck, great family, Jennifer at his side. They sit in comfortable silence as he pulls out of her driveway, and that suits him just fine. They could be mute the rest of their lives and he suspects he would have no complaints.

"The dream I had was so real," she says at their first stop, seeming to give him a second chance at seriousness. "It was about the future…."

This is where his clear, precise memory will end when he tries to recall the event later. He won't think the trauma had anything to do with it, although that would make more sense; strangely, he will think it had something to do with being so white-hot pissed at being called 'chicken' by Needles that that part of his dialogue was completely burned to a crisp. His memory will pick up again when he crashes into the Rolls Royce. He will be able to remember every detail of that. He will, years later, hear Jennifer's hitched yell being strangled by the screeching metal, will smell the smoke that seeps from under his hood, will feel his hand contorting to a position it could not possibly be in, unbroken.

He will remember lifting his hand in front of his face and expecting it to disappear, as it had thirty years before.

He will remember his horror that it instead stayed, mangled but whole, at the end of his wrist.

After all the information is given the police show up, although no one actually involved in the accident had time to make it to a phone. Both of the officers are men, but Marty's thrown by one of them striking him as looking uncannily similar to one of the women who hauled Jennifer home to Hilldale in the future. Rubbing his eyes with the back of his forearm and looking again doesn't so much make the resemblance disappear as it makes him forget who he thought the policeman resembled. The twisted metal of his truck is warm when he settles against it. His stomach rolls and he stares down between his shoes to try and calm it.

"Marty, Marty, are you okay?" Jennifer asks. Her palm's clammy when she touches his arm. She looks anxiously at the police and the other driver, huddles against Marty, then backs away from him. "This is what your mother said would happen-"

Marty looks up at that.

"in my dream."

"Why didn't you tell me?" he shouts.

"Because it was a dream, Marty, it wasn't real!" she sounds a bit like she wants to cry, and she looks up at the sky as though to stop it, sniffling once and swallowing hard. "We were so unhappy," she tells the clouds. When she looks back at him, she continues with, "Oh, Marty, your hand." in a way like it's hurting both of them. Marty reaches for her, but she shakes her head. Marty looks back at his shoelaces, listening to the conversation to their right.

The Rolls Royce driver starts out saying his neck hurts, whiplash, probably, but after some ranting, some consideration, and a long, hard look at Marty, he declines going to the hospital, opting instead to wait for a tow truck. In the end, Marty's the only one that decides to go; his hand by now has started hurting, as the adrenaline fades and the situation becomes mundane.

Jennifer asks to meet him there.

He shrugs, says it shouldn't take long and he'll see her at her house when he's through.

It's over, they already both know, for something that seems now unavoidable even with 30 years' worth of warning. They'll admit to the end, but each keep secret the reason, over a short, awkward conversation on Jennifer's front porch. Jennifer will think of the Chapel O' Love and bags under her eyes, and Marty will think at least his kid won't be such a dork, while trying to forget that that means he's wiping his own children from existence. They'll share 'see you Monday's and have no choice but to mean them.

:- -:

The day the Rolls Royce driver presses (and, strangely enough, drops (if asked, he will say an old man convinced him, but he will never be asked)) charges is the next time Marty talks to the Doc. He lifts his hand to knock but the door opens before his fist falls. Doc's hands are on him immediately, drawing him into something that, if Marty were feeling more charitable, would become a hug. Although it's stopped hurting, Marty remains hyper aware of his crooked fingers, pulling them in closer to his body as he follows Doc inside.

"Listen, I don't know how to ask, but… Doc, I need a favor." Marty's voice astonishes him by sounding neutral. It's resigned itself to his problem before his mind has, and he wishes his mind would give up or his voice would keep strong, because this indecision is killing him.

"Marty, it's impossible." Trust the Doc to know his favor before it's asked. "Reconstructing the time machine would be irresponsible, never mind the fact that there's no logical juncture point for your accident to be prevented."

How the hell does he know, Marty thinks. It's then that he looks at Doc and realizes he's more haggard-looking than usual. Although it's merely presumption, possibly even a bit of wishful thinking, Marty suddenly has the feeling that this favor's been requested before, and that Doc had before complied, responsibility be damned. Feeling the hot twinge an embarrassment he doesn't know for certain is justified, Marty dismissively rubs his neck with his good hand. "That's all right, Doc. I mean, I knew you couldn't, you know. But might as well ask, right? Ah-I'll see you later, huh?"

With a slight, wry smile, Marty turns on his heel.

"Marty, just a moment!"

"Yeah, Doc?" He turns back around. Doc's hand presses lightly into the curved hollow of his spine, guiding him.

"I think you will have particular interest in the completion of my most recent project. There were some…complications, as you know," Doc bestows a warm smile on him. "But I believe those have now been eradicated."

When they stop, Marty's breath catches. "The amplifier," he says. He smiles at the Doc, mystified. In a surreal instant he remembers that he hasn't done anything with music in nearly month while entirely forgetting why. "How'd you have time to…?" his hand chooses now to spasm with a well-timed tic. Marty withdraws as best he can; Doc's gentle fingers remaining against his spine slows his retreat. "I mean, that's great, Doc, really, -thanks-, but I, uh, I can't play."

He doesn't want to say it aloud, because he knows what's coming: If you put your mind to it…. It's Doc's go-to response whenever Marty wants to give up; sure enough, Doc says it now, starting with a 'Now, Marty', with his hands dropping disappointedly to his sides; Doc's regular as clockwork.

"Jesus, Doc, you think I don't want to?" He realizes it's not an argument without proof. As it stands, he wants to play but according to Doc if he wants to play badly enough he can for God's sakes, and so he knows he has to put malformed fingers to straight strings and create a sound to make ears bleed before Doc believes him. He is determined to prove to the Doc that he's a cripple, and he moves to where his guitar ought to be laying in the garage. "It's not here," he says in disbelief.

It takes a long moment of staring into the blank space, with his brain seeming to shift inside his skull, before he remembers. His mother's never yelled at him to keep it down or take it someplace else; she has a headache. His guitar is resting as comfortably in his home as everything in his family ever has.

:- -:

Somewhere in the midst of thinking the Doc is wrong, wrong, wrong, Marty all at once thinks that maybe the Doc is right (just a little bit). Maybe if he does put his mind to it, he can play well enough that chicks besides his girlfriend will touch his arm, lean in close and whisper, "You play really well, Marty." He's always gotten a kick out of that, having something even a handful of people think is outstanding when everything else he's ever done, maybe ever will do, is so completely average. It might even work out better without Jennifer. Maybe he'll have real groupies, and The Pinheads will be a real band, with real agents and contracts and everything, like The Rolling Stones or The Who or someone else so great they can't be denied their spots in music's history; this way he can change history without altering the past, and without screwing up the future; just a memorable name in the present. Soon enough he's back to his guitar, trying to contort his right hand enough to meet the strings. The joints of his knuckles don't want to give enough, like they've been frozen and can't quite find the warmth to thaw, and stretching his fingers this way makes his palm twitch.

Linda stands just inside his door, holding onto its frame, the first time he tries to play. He catches sight of her peripherally without knowing how long she's been standing there; his face burns hot with embarrassment and failure and every note is even harder to find, and sounds even more wrong, than it had before he knew of her existence. He can't watch her and play at the same time, not like he could have before; it takes too much concentration; it takes his mind nudging at his muscles to hit the wrong notes; were he to look at her, he suspects his fingers wouldn't even be able to find the strings. The pick slips from fingers that won't stay bent in the way they're meant to, and he finds when on the off chance he manages to get it to stay between thumb and forefinger, he can barely manage a strum; playing lead is impossible. It takes three agonizing minutes to complete the last fifth of a song that was nearly that long in it's entirety, every chord weak and wrong, with Linda standing in his doorway and him achingly aware of her being there.

Marty doesn't look at her when he's through. He stares shamefacedly down at his bedspread, playing with a loose string with his pinky finger.

"You found the letter, huh?" Linda asks him after a long, long minute of silence. "I told Mom you would."

"What letter?"

Knowing immediately her presumption was a mistake, Linda's eyes tic left and right, looking for their mother. She pauses even when she doesn't see anyone coming. But she could never keep a secret, in particular from the person she was meant to keep it from. "From the recording company."

"We got in, Doc. They want us."

It's three A.M, and this is his greeting. He's not happy, not at all, really. In the very least, he wouldn't be if he stopped to think about it; this entire thing is driving him up the wall and kept him awake last night. But in saying it, he still just about can't breathe for the glee that gets stuck in his lungs; he's been wanting to say this, exactly, for years, and that dominates the grief it's been for the past day.

"That's wonderful, Marty!" This time the response is clearly instinctive; Marty wishes it wasn't; he wishes it was, instead, some sort of reassurance that can only come when you know how the events play out.

"The recording studio. If it wasn't for my damn-" at the last second, he disregards the appendage in disgust. "I mean," he pauses. The letter they sent him is getting sweaty fingerprints on it, and the tuners of the guitar strapped to his back knock him in the head as he readjusts it. "I want your help, to play again."

Doc makes an excited sort of affirmation with his hands on Marty's shoulders. He doesn't stop beaming, but his eyebrows furrow a bit and he backtracks grudgingly, "May I see the letter?"

Marty passes it over. Doc squints in the darkness, then rushes over to a lamp. It's clear he's not coming back, leaving Marty no choice but to follow him inside. Doc speaks to him before he's even close enough to hear properly: "Marty, they expect a response within the next five days. I'll certainly do whatever I can to help you, but I hope your expectations aren't too high."

"…Don't worry, Doc. They aren't."

Doc's face curls twists with amiable suspicion, relaxing when Marty grins in response.

"In that case!" The Doc stoops, his own face close to Marty's, "What do you want me to do?"

Marty hasn't gotten that far in his plan; he's gotten as far as figuring if there was someone to help him, it would be the Doc. "Well, I was kinda hoping you could rig something up, like from 'Star Wars'."

Unusually savvy to the reference, Doc chuckles under his breath.

In a horrific example of irony, Marty finds he has to teach the Doc to play before the Doc can help him. It's not much at first and Doc grasps which notes are which by the second run-through. The chords, Marty finds, are harder to explain, and by the time he gets to the Doc's role in his playing, Marty's words are stumbling all over themselves. He's always simply gotten music-he learned to play more from listening to Hendrix and Van Halen than formal teaching-so he finally opts out of explanation and puts them into position, hoping they can figure it out together instead.

He decides playing seated is easier than standing. After a few unsuccessful attempts of sitting beside Marty and reaching over to help him, the Doc is sits behind him: the Doc's abdomen is against Marty's back, his cheek against Marty's hair, his right hand is cupping Marty's, and his left hand lounges half on Marty's thigh, half on his own.

Doc's fingers, so much longer than Marty's own, act as successful splints, their light pressure alleviating the quake from Marty's hand, helping Marty's fingers from one string to a next, his thumb keeping the pick in Marty's hand.

The tendons in his hand, forced to keep their position, ache violently. His wrist feels almost arthritic as it's made to swivel up and down, the muscles of the base of his hand drawn tight across it. The only part of him that works on its own is his right elbow, wanting to swing into the strum far before he or the Doc is ready for it; he mentally stills it. It's slow going, Marty's foot has to pause its beat to keep the tempo, waiting for Doc's hand to guide his from string to string, but there's sound there- his sound; undeveloped but as distinct as it has ever been.

When he finally says, "Shit, that hurts." after thinking it several times over, pausing to try and shake the cramps out of his hand, the Doc calls it quits for the day.

Marty stands, stretches. The heat that came from having Doc wrapped around him quickly dissipates, leaving his thighs and spine unusually cold. He buttons his vest almost subconsciously. "So, uh." Marty clears his throat, uncomfortable. It isn't strange to have the Doc so close to him, and this isn't the source of his discomfort; he is much less used to having to be so utterly dependent on someone. "Thanks," he manages finally.

"Anytime."

Doc's hand touches his again, fingers winding up under the cuff of Marty's coat sleeve, fingertips tickling against the hair on his wrist.

Even as his thighs regain their own heat after losing the Doc's, this is the touch that makes him maybe, just a little bit, uncomfortable.

Marty's mouth is dry, his knees a little weak, as he gets on his skateboard.

:- -:

This routine stays the same for four days with only two notable alterations, both of which begin on the second day:

The first happens immediately when Doc greets him. Going through several medical textbooks, he composed a list of exercises that would, he suspected, produce optimal results in improving manual dexterity. (Pushing this list into Marty's shirt pocket, he asks for his appearance to be excused; the subject interested him too much for him to sleep)

The second is that Marty begins leaving his guitar in the garage.

Marty tries to revel in his improvement. His thumb can hold itself against his finger, keeping the pick in its place with only a slight quaver, and that's something, he reminds himself. His fingers still stumble, wanting to go back to their own unnatural shape, without Doc's assistance, but he thinks maybe the pressure against his knuckles is just a little lighter, and that's something more.

On the fifth day he goes to Doc's house, he pointedly ignores the guitar. He lets his fingers curl back in on themselves instead of holding them out, right. He's missed his deadline and it gnaws at him. He doesn't have a good nervous habit, so he settles himself on the couch, elbows on knees and head between hands, one flat and one fisted, letting his stomach acid burn at his lungs.

The Doc knows when to let things play out, and he lets them now. He moves about the garage, rustling in boxes and putting together what seems several projects at once.

Marty listens to the movement for a long while.

"Doc?" Marty asks his knees.

"Yes?"

"What if…" Marty looks up, seeing Doc's perpetual motion is flash frozen-he seems prepared to rush toward Marty, to make the comforting physical. He can't keep his eyes focused on the Doc's. "What if this was my only shot? What if I-If I totally blew it?"

"Marty…" The Doc says his nickname with a force it takes his mother his full name to muster. It sounds like a reprimand. Like the beginning of, 'Didn't you say you knew the plausibility of this event?'

Marty turns. The Doc's hand is on his shoulder, thumb against his neck. He looks up, asking the Doc to continue in a voice that comes out surprisingly soft, "Yeah, Doc?"

"You can't discard an opportunity without first giving it a chance to arise."

It's almost odd how calming that is, even as Marty thinks that Doc hasn't really had a lot of success, himself; so far as he knows, Doc's only ever garnered a small commendation that found its way into the local paper. He relaxes under Doc's hand. "What you mean is-"

"You're getting ahead of yourself, kid," Doc says dryly.

Marty laughs in surprise, pleasantly reminded of a Doc he is too young to have ever known.

"Yeah, well, maybe." Marty rubs at his nose dismissively. He stares at Doc long enough to embarrass himself, grins, and blinks. "Ah, hey. You were right. A-about those exercises; I think they're really helping."

Doc tells him that it's wonderful in a way that, through enthusiastic hyperbolism of how great a feat it was, completely makes Marty forget completely that it truly is difficult. He mumbles an "Oh, come on…" It puts him at such unease that he looks for something to distract himself with, grabs his guitar with a strong force of habit, and manages on his own accord to play the first note of a Van Halen song that feels like it's been stuck in his head forever.

He wonders if Doc knows him well enough for this to have been intentional.

:- -:

On the sixth night, he winds up sleeping over. He's not one for Doc's occasionally insomniac habits, and by the time he's finished with school and its required homework, hand exercises, practice, and helping Doc with constructing some large, metallic, new invention he isn't entirely sure he wants to know about, he sinks onto the couch.

Doc, a bit confused at Marty's tiredness, checks a watch, then confirms the time with two clocks, and exclaims that it's getting late. He, naturally, has his van, and would be glad to give Marty a ride home-

"Yeah, Doc, sure," Marty says around a yawn, "Just…give me a minute."

The next thing Marty knows, he's waking up. By the time he gets into sitting position, there's a clock in view. 7:30. Weighing the constriction of time against getting fresh clothes while dealing with 'worried sick' parents, Marty sighs, yells out, "Thanks for letting me crash here, Doc," to the room in general, scoops up his skateboard, and is out the door in a flash.

The rest of the morning's events seem to happen much quicker than they actually do. He's in clean clothes, still buttoning up his shirt, when he kisses his indignant mother on the cheek-

"Marty, where were-!"

"Gotta go, Ma, I'll be late for school!"

"We'll talk about this when you-"

The door shuts on her words, which quite possibly deepens the whole he's dug for himself, but he doesn't slow down until he's at school.

Late.

Of course.

Strickland smacks a tardy slip into his hand while informing him that, "Your father wasn't nearly such a slacker. When are you going to shape up, McFly?" There's enough of a pause that Marty could respond if he wants. "Maybe you can think about your future in detention."

"I'd love to, sir."

:- -:

When Marty stops by the Doc's after school, it's getting dark enough that he almost continues home. He stops when he hears music pouring out into the driveway, muted but clear. He pauses at the door, skateboard held under his armpit. He calls out half-heartedly like he's expecting not to be heard, too soft and hesitant to really warrant a response. Marty checks his watch for no particular reason; the Doc is rarely out and when he is it's not often dictated by time, despite his walls and wrists being decorated by clocks and watches. With a shrug to himself, Marty opts to enter instead of knock.

"Doc, I didn't know you played," Marty says, interrupting the sound.

"Yes, well, I'm afraid I'm out of practice." His face is a bit red, his eyes a little downcast. It's the first time Marty's seen the Doc this flustered, and he knows the feeling; music's personal when you're playing alone, for no one but yourself. It's emotional masturbation, a secret act of release that's embarrassing to be caught at. For all the shame he has at catching Doc in the act, Marty can't feel entirely repentant; he finds that stepping on Doc's personal life like this endears the Doc to him in an entirely new way.

"The hell you are," Marty mutters. Louder, he says, "I figured it was just laying around for parts, you know. You got a lot of stuff." The Doc reaches out, and Marty passes the saxophone back carefully.

Doc stands as though to set the saxophone aside, but he holds it instead, "My mother and father were generally monolingual in our home-Of course they understood English and I wasn't quite so recluse those days," Doc pauses as though to trail off, but finds his train of thought: "Still! When I was a boy, I listened to the radio to try and perfect my understanding of the language- Amos and Andy! Jack Benny! - It was a wonderful form of entertainment, prior to the popularization of television! Fireside chats… Really brought people together…" Doc leans against boxes stacked precariously enough to make Marty wince.

"You got a point, Doc?" Marty asks, hoping to draw the Doc away from disaster.

Doc, fortunately, drifts back towards him. "It was a habit, of sorts, to listen to the radio. I became rather enamored with Charlie Parker. Wonderful saxophonist," Doc muses.

"Why don't you play something? I wanna hear it," Marty urges. Though he's never been a fan of jazz, he's sincere. Doc, after a pause, obliges.

Marty knows that were it something he heard on the radio, he'd change stations. Perhaps it's the environment that draws him in, or maybe the simple overwhelming bias that makes him fascinated in anything that the Doc is involved in. Maybe it's that he can see the emotions on Doc's face, thus can hear them in the music he plays. It has an air of oddly premeditated carelessness, detailed without following its own plan, and Marty thinks it's appropriate.

:- -:

He's home, but he's not really. Instead he's on stage, singing and playing- he starts to emulate Jimi Hendrix, but then he realizes he can't and it has nothing to do with his hand. He could before, when he and Jimi were both nobodies, but it's now or later, and now or later he can't because he doesn't want his audience to think he's a rip-off. So instead he starts doing it his own way, so wrapped up in his own voice and his own music that he's floating about stage almost unconsciously, touching band mates and sweat dripping in his eyes, by God probably looking like he's about to die, red-faced and panting, but he's feeling so absolutely wonderful it's all right if he croaks right in the middle of the chorus. Every now and again his voice cuts in, commentary to his performance: Is this really better than thinking I can't make it? and his hand turns crippled again for just a minute or two until he tells himself to shut up, he doesn't want to think about it, he just wants to play in peace. What good are fantasies if they're hampered by real life, anyway.

His mother's hand is on the back of his head, stroking his hair, by the time he notices her.

"Ma."

"Marty," she says. Her breath catches like she wants to say something more. Still stroking his hair, she sits beside him on his bed.

"Ma?"

"Your father and I discussed it, and we think it would be best if you stopped spending so much time around Doctor Brown."

"But, Ma, you like Doc." At least he thinks she does. The worst response to Doc he can remember is resignation.

"Yes. We do," she says, consciously throwing the support of a currently absent George into the mix. Jesus, why can't he ever just talk to me himself? Marty thinks bitterly; his father, though never a coward who shied from confrontation, has so frequently been sidetracked by writing since his first novel came out that it's been hard to have any conversation at all with him. "But it's not healthy for a young boy to spend all his free time with a grown man." She chuckles when she says it, but her eyes are concerned and her hand in his hair becomes more deliberately tender. She bites her lip a little and continues grudgingly with, "Marty, if there's something you have to tell me…"

There's nothing.

"You're sure?" Her hand stalls. Her eyes are almost glassy.

There's still nothing.

He knows the his quiet sounds damning to his mother, so he gets the overwhelming feeling to comfort her, to say that his and Doc's relationship is normal and there's nothing going on but he doesn't know just how right any of that is, and he's never been a good liar, and by the time he thinks to say 'It's fine. I'm fine.' which is actually true, enough time has passed that even that will ring false, so instead he lets it go in silence that might be a little less deadly.

Her hand stalls on the back of his neck.

She looks so much like she's going to cry that he doesn't want to look at her. But if he turns away he thinks that will be the final twist of the knife, that that will actually be the thing to convince her of her suspicions and make her bawl, so he stares at her. And like that her face clears to blankness, then to staged happiness:

"What about Jennifer? I haven't seen her around here lately."

"Mom, I broke up with Jennifer."

"You…to spend time with…" her hand drops away from him, fists up and goes to her own mouth as though to keep it shut. She looks away from him, straight into his wall. She blinks several times, hard and fast, lowers her fist, and looks at him again. She changes tactics, "Marty, I want you to come straight home after school tomorrow. We haven't been seeing enough of you."

"I gotta get my guitar from Doc's."

"Marty." She sounds so annoyed that when he sees the flash of her palm from the corner of his eye, he flinches. Instead she pets his hair again, albeit more roughly this time around. "I'll get it for you." She thinks, deems this satisfactory, nods to herself. "Yes," she tells herself. "Yes." she slaps her palms against the bedspread as though pushing herself up. "Get some rest tonight, Sweetie."

She kisses his forehead.

She turns off his light, closes the door, and leaves him in the darkness.

:- -:

He doesn't disobey his mother, which is not to say he doesn't consider it. He lets his skateboard glide to its natural stop in front of Doc's garage, and even rests one foot on the sidewalk as he ponders his destination. In an odd moment of ambivalence, he thinks his mother would care about him not listening to her more than he remembers her ever caring before. Finally, after trying to reflect on past punishments that just refuse to stay consistent (one second he's never been grounded, the next he's accumulated several good months inside; he recalls seeing the entirety of 'Conan the Barbarian' without consequence-even remembers Linda telling his folks where he'd been while they sat at the dinner table and getting an indignant yell from his mom, backed up hesitantly by his dad, before the subject was dropped abruptly and for good-, then remembers he didn't get five minutes into the movie before his mom nearly ripped his arm out of its socket as she dragged him from the theater, telling him he was going to clean the house, and the garage, and the car, all spotless thank you, very much, Martin Seamus McFly. He remembers the next day his father stage-whispered 'Your mother used to do the same thing when she was your age' and his mother slapped at his father's wrist with a wounded 'Ge-orge!' but nonetheless bumped the car from his list of clean-up duty because she conceded she had in fact done the same.)

"Boy, you're nuts, McFly," he murmurs to himself, shaking his head to clear both real and unreal thoughts from his it. He pushes off the sidewalk to set himself in motion once more.

At home, the house feels stale and a little cold, the air sitting uncirculated until he walks through it.

"Mom?"

With no response, he walks through to the kitchen. He swings the fridge door open, drinks the rest of the milk from its carton, 'tsk's and 'aw's over an unsuccessful throw to the trash can, and closes the door. Stuck to the fridge with a rainbow magnet is a note:

Marty

Be back soon. Your father's in his study, don't disturb him.

Love Mom

XOXO

" 'Haven't been seeing enough of me'. Wonder why."

He heads to his room next. Just like she said she would, he sees his mother picked up his guitar; he sees it laid out on his bed like a person. Not in the mood to play, he instead focuses on exercising his hand: he starts with forming an 'O' with index finger and thumb-this is the finger that is noticeably weaker than the rest, hovering, quivering, above his thumb, and he uses his other hand to press it down- he then flexes the hand out as straight as he can get it, and repeats these steps on the following fingers in a continuous cycle until his mother calls him down for dinner.

They sit on opposite sides of the table, just the two of them. He asks where everybody is and learns his father is in his study, Linda on a date, and Dave came in to pick up overtime. Like always. Marty looks at the table. He reaches absentmindedly for his water and is about to take a drink when he is so overcome with the feeling of it being filthy that he drops the glass. The water pools on the tablecloth, transparent. He looks up at the startled voice that comes from across the table.

"Sorry, ma'am," he says.

"What did you say?" she responds with a chuckle.

"Sorry, mom," he says. His heart slows against his chest as he stands to dry the table.

Of course it was his mother and not some long-dead relative who looked strikingly similar.

He lets out a slow breath and continues with, "I think I'm gonna head to bed, Ma."

He kisses her on the cheek and he goes back to his room.

Like focusing on a faraway, stable object along the side of the road to keep from car sickness, Marty tries to think of a constant, unchangeable through time. He can come up with only music and the Doc before he remembers that nothing has ever changed and time travel is, of course, impossible.

:- -:

He dreams of Doc playing music, and it's entirely different than dreaming of himself playing. He dreams of Doc's hands and mouth and breath for God sakes, of cheeks and chest expanding, relaxing. Then in an odd moment of clarity he thinks the dream pointless, and his subconscious must agree with him, because the next thing he knows, the Doc's hands and mouth and breath are on him instead of the saxophone, cheek against his ear and chest rising against his back.

He wakes up in the middle of an orgasm, and it takes him a minute of wondering whether it was real or dream before he recognizes it as both.

He's always known what he had with the Doc wasn't normal. He had normal relationships, and every one of the people he had those with commented on the Doc at some point or another, and he'd always laughed it off, or gotten in a fight, depending on who said what. "Oh come on, the Doc-Doc's scientific. He's not like that," he'd told his band mates once. Whatever the comment meant, his fellow Pinheads accepted it with only a slight glance between themselves.

It had never been strange to him, really; it always had a secondhand sort of abnormality around it; strange only because other people saw it that way, that never affected him personally because he knew the reason to be unfounded.

It's now founded.

He doesn't think about any of this, instead feeling it like several memories he may or may not actually have.

The only thing he actually thinks is Shit.

:- -:

He gets to see the Doc again a week later than he'd expected. It happens only this quickly because he'd never realized before that his entire life outside the house and school was composed of Jennifer, The Pinheads, and Doc. He hoped for any of the three but expected-and received- none, leaving him to grow increasingly more restless as time stuck in the house wore on. His mother, in turn, seemed in equal parts to be growing more depressed and agitated, until, finally, with a 'Fine!' that sounded very much like she didn't mean it, she permitted him to go to the Doc's.

Their routine resumes as though it were never interrupted.

Excluding the first day, Marty doesn't mention being trapped at home. They talk about music. They talk about inventions, school-high school as well as college, and general going's on: three times Marty mentions having auditions, never does he mention the following rejections. When they run out of things to say, they start in on things to do; they work on the Doc's newest creation, then begin to play some music- first as a single unit, then, as Marty's hand regains its mobility, separately but together, sitting just far enough apart to not get in each other's way.

It continues this way for months, up until the end of the school year, without interruption: In a well-kept, well-known secret, Marty ducks his head when his mother sends guilt-inducing glances his way and doesn't bother trying to bring up her suspicion with the Doc; he thinks it's sometimes better to keep universal truths under wraps; if either of the other two parties disagree with him, they say nothing.

Very few things stay hidden for any length of time, but through school and discussions being mostly limited to mail, this particular secret will have the longevity of four years.

:- -:

Everything ends, or starts, this way:

Graduation.

This is the first day of the rest of his life. At least, this is what his mother tells him when she kisses his forehead, even though she really should be sitting down already. "Ma!" he answers. His father, Dave, Linda, and the Doc have all 'Congratulations'd him beforehand, although he doesn't see the need, and he's a bit touched by his mother's display.

He rubs his palms on the insides of long sleeves.

He's nervous, just like everyone suspected him to be the hours before he arrived.

"Don't worry; it'll be over soon." was the general consensus of his family, except his mother, who seemed too touched by his pacing, sweating hands, and butterflied stomach to tell him anything at all.

It was, in fact, also the opinion of Doc:

"Of course you're anxious! It's a natural reaction when something big is about to happen!"

"Yeah, that helps. Thanks a lot, Doc," he said dismissively. "Any advice?"

"Don't worry; it's a very temporary feeling."

Marty shuffles forward as the line moves up.

He starts thinking about his life, like his mom's been asking him to do all year. It turns out that he's drawing just as much of a blank now as he has for the past few months. The fact is, the only thing he's ever wanted to be is a rock star-

Shuffles forward-

And, all right. He never expected to be able to play again. It was a debilitating realization, but one he recognized instantaneously. He saw his crippled hand and knew, even without Jennifer's sad eyes rolled skyward, that it was over. He would never be everything he dreamed of.

He still won't be. His muscles will forever be just a little too slow to let him play the fast, fast solos, so fast that the second note trips over the first as it ran through the crowd, so fast it all almost has to be improvised because his fingers are moving faster than his mind can remember.

He flexes his hands, together. Optimistically, he thinks they're almost in sync.

Maybe it will turn out he's wrong again.

Suddenly conscious of himself, he realizes he's hoping for it.

He looks up the stairs, past one short-haired head and up to Mr. Strickland, shaking someone's hand.

It's getting close; he wonders how the hell that happened.

He looks through the crowd.

Shuffles forward.

Looks to the Doc.

Anything is possible.

Shuffles forward.

He's just got to put his mind to it.

"McFly, Martin."

With that, he steps onto the stage and into his future