When he was a teenager, marriage had seemed like a faraway, nebulous concept for Marty. It was something for adults who had jobs and cars and mortgages, not kids who were barely out of high school. Marriage could wait until he’d fulfilled some of his dreams (and boy, he sure had a lot of them). Plus, he knew Jennifer was willing to wait for him too. So they’d made their plans for college,; four years later, Marty had graduated with a B.A. in marketing and an even foggier notion of what he was supposed to do. How did rock stars apply for jobs?
Eventually he settled for a sales position while Jennifer went on to graduate school at Stanford. She’d always been smarter than him, so that was no surprise to anyone. What surprised people was Jennifer Parker returning to Hill Valley two years later with a sleek new do and an MBA under her wing, and she’d still wanted to marry Marty McFly. Marty’s old man told him that he was one hell of a lucky guy, and his folks offered to pay for the wedding.
Marty would never be as smart or brilliant as Doc, but he was sharp enough to know he couldn’t let Jennifer change her mind. So they set the date.
When the actual day of his wedding arrived - October 26, 1995 - Marty couldn’t quite believe than it had been ten years since the...adventure he’d undertaken with Doc. There were days when it had felt like a long, surreal dream, one where he’d met the younger versions of his parents and changed their lives. And his, too. There was no way he and Jennifer could have afforded to hold their nuptials at the Hill Valley Marriott if his old man hadn’t pitched in. Hell, even Biff had offered to help with waxing the wedding car. (Marty had never quite stopped being suspicious of him, but it looked less and less likely now that Biff was going to start rapping on George McFly’s head and yelling at him again.)
Marty’s throat had gone dry when Jennifer had stepped down the aisle with her dad, her long white dress gleaming like a diamond and making her look like a vision (an earth angel, his mind whispered insidiously). The ceremony had gone by in a blur, and an hour later Marty found himself at the reception, thanking his guests and listening to David make a tearful speech about how his snot-nosed kid brother was finally a man.
Throughout the reception, Jennifer made sure they’d greeted most of the guests that came. Out of Marty’s mental tally of his side of the wedding, there was a particularly important guest missing who hadn’t RSVP-ed, but Marty had reserved a place for him all the same. Between handshakes and congratulations, Marty found himself keeping an eye out for a shock of white hair, or a tweed suit, or even an overly rambunctious Einstein bounding into the reception and knocking a vase of flowers over.
“I’m sure he’ll come,” Jennifer assured him, after Marty’s sixteenth glance at the doors. “He won’t miss your big day.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right, babe,” Marty said. Except that he wasn’t sure at all. He and Doc hadn’t been that great at keeping in touch in the past few years, especially after Marty had left college. He had often wondered if Doc had hoped that Marty would pursue something STEM-related in college, but Marty had gone to Cal State with the sole purpose of forming a real band there. That science stuff was out of his league, and he hadn’t told Doc that the whole time-travel experience had kinda rattled him.
However, he suspected Doc still took trips on his own. When the Oklahoma City bombings had happened, Doc had stared straight-lipped at the TV for a long time. Then he’d disappeared on a one-week ‘vacation’ with no explanation or preamble. Marty had always suspected that Doc must have tried to go back and find a way to prevent the horrific event, but something must have thwarted Doc’s efforts. Even now, the bomber was still at large.
A sharp ‘ting-ting-ting’ of someone tapping their fork against a wine glass made Martin snap out of his thoughts. At the head table, his old man had gotten to his feet and was preparing to make a speech. Marty couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear, listening as George McFly talked about how he and Lorraine were so proud of their youngest, and how they hoped Marty and Jennifer would be as happy as they were. Marty, who still remembered how much worse off things had been in the beginning, took an extra gulp of wine. He really had Doc to thank for fixing all the shit that had happened to his family.
After George’s speech, Marty was forced to make nice with his dad’s publishing cronies. He was in the middle of zoning out during their lengthy congratulations when there was the loudest ‘crack!’ outside the reception hall, as though lightning had struck.
A few minutes later, Marty spotted Biff hobbling in from the parking lot and complaining to Linda, who was the emcee for the evening. Linda listened with an impatient look, waving Biff off before she grabbed the mic. “Okay folks, I have an announcement to make. Can the owner of a grey DeLorean parked outside the church please move your car? You’re blocking access to the parking lot. I repeat, the owner of a grey DeLorean--”
Marty straightened up immediately, pushing past his dad’s astonished publishing cronies. Sure enough, the doors burst open and Doc was stalking down the aisle, his hair wild and eyes frantic. “Marty?’ Doc called out, beaming when he spotted him.
“Doc!” Marty shouted in joy, laughing as they met halfway and hugged tightly. Marty had been so happy to see Doc that he only just realized Doc’s clothes were way too colourful with red and yellow zigzags, and he was wearing what looked like a...plastic tie? “What’s with the get-up, Doc?”
Doc’s expression became instantly wary. “I just came from...a place.” He glanced around cautiously. “Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“Sure thing.” Marty glanced around. “Don’t you want to say hi to Jennifer first?”
Doc licked his lips nervously. “I’d like to, but I’m not sure how much time I have.”
“Oh, uh, okay.” Marty excused his way past groups of guests and friends, Doc silently in tow behind him.
They finally found respite in the dressing room reserved for the groom, and Marty let both of them in, collapsing into the nearest chair. “Damn, my feet are killing me. I know it’s supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but--”
“So your wedding had no problems?” Doc demanded to know, squinting at Marty.
Marty frowned at him. “I mean, the caterer was a little late, but--”
“No, no, I meant Jennifer!” Doc cut in impatiently. “When she came back from Stanford? She didn’t say anything?”
Now it was getting weirder and weirder. “No, she didn’t,” Marty said slowly. “What’s going on, Doc?”
Doc rubbed his face, glancing at his watch. “Great Scott! I have less time than I thought. Okay Marty, listen. I wasn’t sure whether to tell you this, but given all we’ve been through together, I figured we owe it to each other to be honest.”
Marty could only nod, more mystified than ever.
“I’d gone back in time to try and prevent the Oklahoma City bombing from ever happening,” Doc told him. “I tried tipping off the FBI, but they thought I was a crackpot. A crackpot, Marty! So I had to go back further and further, to try and find out who he was. Somewhere along the way when I was following a lead, I ran into a younger Jennifer.”
Marty did not like where this was going, but he nodded anyway.
“She wasn’t sure whether to go back to Hill Valley,” Doc said, and Marty’s throat ran dry. “Don’t blame her, kiddo, she was just caught between two decisions between a job offer in L.A., or you. I made sure to sabotage her interview.” Doc’s smile turned wry. “I missed my lead, but...since you’re getting married, I figure my sacrifice worked.”
“Shit.” Marty blinked a few times. “Doc, I don’t know what to say.”
“Just don’t. Not until I get this son of a bitch.” Doc’s expression turned into grim determination. “I know his name and his whereabouts now. If I can’t prevent the bombing, at least I can make sure the cops nab him. Has he been caught yet?”
Marty shook his head, trying not to think about Jennifer outside, laughing with their guests.
“Then I need to go back.” Doc clapped Marty on the shoulder. “Have a good marriage, Marty. I always knew you crazy kids would end up together. Yes, even with my interference.” Here, his laugh was a little unnerving. “Trust me, I’ve been to 2015. You have a son, Marty! A son!”
There were shouts outside the window, and Marty could hear Biff bellowing down the phone to what sounded like a tow-truck operator. “You’d better go, Doc.”
“All right.” Doc smiled warmly. “Congratulations again, Marty. Don’t take anything for granted.” Heading for the door, Doc paused for a moment. “I’m not sure when I’ll be back, so...take care.”
“You too, Doc, you too.” They hugged briefly again, and Marty stared at the door for the longest time, until he heard the sharp lightning-crack of the DeLorean again in the far distance.
Eventually there was a knock on the door before Jennifer peeped in. “You okay, honey?” she asked worriedly.
Marty managed a smile. Knowing what could have been, Marty knew that he could not be callous or greedy, not when Doc had stuck his neck out for him. “Just taking a breather from the hordes,” he joked, getting to his feet and giving her a kiss.
Jennifer looked a little relieved. “Good, then come out and join me before I have to hear one more joke about you climbing out the bathroom window.”
Taking her offered hand, Marty strengthened his resolve and followed her out, unable to stop glancing at her now and then. How beautiful she was, whether at 18 or 28, her profile sharp and as familiar to him as his own. How close had they been to living as strangers? Almost as close as his own parents, probably. He had Doc to thank for that - again.
Down at the reception hall, the wedding band played a cover of ‘Earth Angel’, courtesy of a request from the groom’s parents.