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Seen you before

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Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown is no stranger to pranks. He’s been both the instigator and the victim multiple times over his 30 odd years on this planet. Mostly, he’s been able to shake them off his back, to proceed like nothing’s happened and ignore whatever prank Hill Valley’s kids – and sometimes their parents – like to throw his way. Getting the reputation of a somewhat loose cannon with access to bomb-making materials mostly makes people wary of him and they tend to leave him alone. There’s a few people though, who’s response to the whole ordeal is to mess with the man with the reputation of being a crackpot lunatic.


Emmett’s honestly not sure what, exactly, he’s done to deserve that particular reputation. He’s not done any drugs in a long, long time. He’s all clean and sober now and it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made – and Doc Brown, in his own humble opinion, makes a lot of great decisions.


But, the pranks. Mostly it’s people putting stuff like rotten eggs in his mailbox or setting fire to the bushes on his land or painting his car pink – as if that will be the thing that drives the mad doctor over the edge. They like prank calling his house, too, though he’s learned that if there’s mostly giggles and silence on the other end of the phone when he finally does answer it, it’s not the PopSci Magazine looking for an interview.


Not many are brave enough, though, to encounter him in person. Those who claim to be though, usually get talked into trying to break into his garage when he may or may not be at home.


Biff – 1953


Emmett already knows there’s someone in his garage by the time he reaches the door. He left Copernicus in there earlier, having a sleep, and now the puppy is barking like crazy.


Copernicus usually never barks.


Cursing to himself, Emmett silently, slowly, opens the door to the garage until it’s just enough space to let him through without alerting the intruder that he has, in fact, been discovered.


Copernicus’ yapping sounds even louder as Emmett carefully steps into the dark garage. His mother always told him he made such a mess of the mostly unused garage his parents more or less gave him to use how he saw fit by the time he reached 19, but now, Emmett’s kind of grateful for his own messy ways. It’s not that it’s messy in an unclean way, really, it’s more that it’s an organized mess that looks messy to anyone who isn’t Emmett. He knows exactly where everything is, just like he told his mother when she scolded him for leaving his latest contraption on the floor for anyone to stumble over.


Just like Gertrude Tannen’s young grandson does in his hurry to shut Copernicus up.


Emmett’s not overly familiar with the young man groaning in pain on his garage floor, but he’s run into Mrs Tannen herself enough times to know that her grandson is a bit of a handful.


Wanting to announce his own presence while the boy is still somewhat preoccupied, Emmett reaches out to turn on the light switch just as Biff’s swearing trails off into silence.


It probably shouldn’t amuse Emmett that the boy startles – badly. So badly, even, that he bangs his head hard against the floor in surprise.


“Oh, fuck,” are the first coherent words Emmett gets the dubious pleasure of hearing Biff Tannen mutter as the kid scrambles to get to his feet to – do what? Attack Emmett in his own home?


“Hello,” says Emmett, as if finding strange kids in his home is no more unusual than going grocery shopping. If Biff finds it alarming that Emmett is now loosely holding the baseball bat he keeps by the side of the doors, the boy doesn’t show it. He just relaxes his stance and let’s his arms hang loosely in front of him.


Emmett suspects Biff Tannen is nowhere near as brave as he claims to be without the backup of his little gang.


“Hi,” the kid says, his eyes never leaving the baseball bat.


“Would you mind explaining what you’re doing inside my workshop? I distinctly remember locking the doors before going up to the house earlier.”

Emmett makes sure to keep his tone light and non-threatening, though he’s pretty sure the fact that he’s in his bathrobe kind of takes care of that already.


“I, uh, heard barking, Figured I should check it out, in case the dog was injured,” Biff manages, gesturing behind him, to where Copernicus, now that Emmett is in the building, has settled down on the floor, watching silently.


Emmett nods, like that makes perfect sense. Biff Tannen, bully of all things alive on the planet, cares about Mad Doc Brown’s dog enough to check it out in the middle of the night. Nothing suspicious about that.


He gestures towards Copernicus too, throwing in a smile towards the boy. “As you can see, he’s completely fine. Nothing to worry about. Now, I assume a young man like you should be in bed at his grandmother’s place at an hour like this?”


The fact that Emmett seems to know who he is makes Biff deflate even further. Trying to look threatening one last time, he scowls at the ground, muttering a “Whatever,” under his breath.


“Go home, Biff,” Emmett tells him, releasing his hold on the baseball bat. “If you just leave and leave me well enough alone, I won’t press any charges. I won’t even make a case about the window you broke to get inside.”


He has no intention of pressing charges anyway, but Biff doesn’t need to know that. Emmett watches as the kid carefully steps over the contraption he stumbled upon earlier, shuffling past Emmett and the baseball bat now laying on the ground, looking sullen.


With his tail between his legs, Emmett thinks. Still, Emmett has no doubt, Biff Tannen will find a way to make this little failure of his into a resounding success with that little gang that surrounds him most days. He’ll be their leader within days, probably.




George Mcfly – 1954


Truth to be told, Emmett’s not really sure he can even qualify this one as a break-in.


He’s busy trying to get his new, as of yet not working, mind-reading device to actually bloody work, when the doors to his lab are pushed open. It’s done hesitantly, as if the person doing the pushing has repeatedly tried to get Emmett’s attention and failed because Emmett’s been too absorbed in his latest invention.


“Yes?” Emmett asks, loudly, just to be sure it’s not just the wind blowing the door open or something.


“Uh, hi?” comes a male voice, sounding confused. Pushing his protective glasses up onto his head, Emmett lays down the blowtorch, and cranes his neck until he can see his visitor.


It’s a young man, with side-swept dark hair and a nervous expression on his face.


“I didn’t think anyone would be in here,” the kid edges, nervousness seeping into his voice. Upon closer inspection, Emmett realizes the kid is actually shaking. “There was no answer to my knocking.”


At that, Emmett leaves his work-bench and strides closer to the boy. He jams his hands into the pockets of his pants and relaxes his stance. Best to appear as jovial as possible, Emmett thinks. This young man seems like he’s going to bolt at first sight of confrontation. Smiling, Emmett clears his throat. “What can I do for you?” he asks, forcing himself to smile without showing too many of his teeth in the process.


That’s all it takes for the kid to lose it.


“Biff told me to!” There’s a hasty breath and then the kid falls to his knees as if prepared to beg for his life. “Said he’d leave me alone for a month if I’d steal something from you!”


Emmett shakes his head. Biff Tannen gets more and more aggressive as the days go by, that’s for sure. Emmett may not be on friendly terms with Principal Strickland of Hill Valley High School, but the man is fond of complaining about the bastard kids that attend his school – so much that he does it to anyone who may be willing – or unfortunate enough – to hear him.


“What’s your name, kid?” asks Emmett, gesturing for the boy to get off his knees.


“George,” the kid replies, looking as if he’s expecting to be blown to smithereens at any minute.


“George.” Emmett tries the name for a minute, and then nods.


“Take your pick, kid,” he says, gesturing to the back of his lab, where he keeps his pile of “stuff that needs improvement to actually work”.


“I’m sorry?” asks George, staring as if Emmett just asked him if he wanted to set fire to his most prized possession. It’s probably a book, Emmett muses. George looks like the type of kid that likes to read a lot. Much like himself.


“Take your pick,” Emmett repeats. “And bring it back to Tannen. Half of this shit doesn’t work anyway.”


The relief is palpable. All tension drains out of the kid’s body at once. “Thank you!” George near shouts before catching himself and lowering his voice. “Thank you,” he says again, quieter.


Emmett just nods, going back to work on his mind-reading device.


Lorraine Baines – 1968


If there’s one thing Emmett is not expecting when getting back from his weekly grocery run it is Lorraine Baines Mcfly – the future mother of Marty Mcfly – to be sitting in his workshop, evidently waiting for him.


He nearly drops his groceries in surprise.


Lorraine is heavily pregnant with – if his calculations are correct – the baby that must be Marty. Mr and Mrs Mcfly already have two other children – Emmett’s seen them around town doing family stuff. As far as he remembers, that photograph Marty showed him back in 1955 only contained three people. Marty and his two siblings.


“Hi,” Lorraine tells him, looking embarrassed as she sits at his table. “I know it’s polite to wait outside and not go inside uninvited but it is raining and I’m so, so, tired. I do hope you can forgive me.”


Emmett nearly flinches as she turns the full force of her gaze on him. Emmett, despite his best efforts, are not immune to pretty people and Lorraine Baines Mcfly is very pretty, even at eight months pregnant and very put out by the rain.


“Sure,” he finds himself saying. “How are you, Mrs, uh, Mcfly?”


Officially, he reminds himself, he doesn’t know who she is. He’s only met her once, as the girl who had a massive crush on his “nephew” Marty and that was thirteen years ago.


“Oh,” she says, holding out her hand for him to shake. “I’m Lorraine Baines Mcfly. You might not remember me, Doc, but I was, uh, friends with your nephew some ten years ago in high school. For the, uh, week he attended, I mean.”


“Oh,” echoes Emmett back. “Of course! He went to that dance thing with you!”


Lorraine just nods, stroking her belly absentmindedly. “This may sound ridiculously strange, Doc, but I would like Marty’s blessing in naming my unborn child after him. The baby’s due next month and I, uh, I can’t seem to find a way to get hold of your nephew.”


Leaning forward, she adds, “He was instrumental in getting me and my husband together, you see, and I’d like to honor him.”


“Oh,” Emmett s says again. This time it’s mostly to buy time, while he searches his brain for a believable and suitable answer.


“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” he manages at last, desperately hoping Lorraine Mcfly is no good at calling peoples lies.


“You see,” he continues, “Marty’s dead.”


Lorraine looks shocked. “Oh, no. Why? I mean, how?”


“Car accident,” Emmett replies, suddenly feeling very clever. “On the night of your prom. I probably should have said something and I’m sorry for not telling you sooner-”


“No,” Lorraine interrupts, still looking shocked. “You had no obligation, As far as you knew, we weren’t even friends. We’d just met that week. I only knew him for a week. I confess, I sometimes wondered what happened to him, but I made no effort to go ask you, until now. I figured he just went back to where he came from. Was he really a coast guard?”


“Uh, yes. Part of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.”


Emmett nods solemnly, as if he’s really spent the past thirteen years mourning the death of his non-existent nephew.


“I think he’d be very happy, though,” he tells Lorraine, “if you named your baby after him.”


Lorraine sniffles, blowing her nose in a handkerchief produced from God knows where. “You hear that?” she asks her belly, “your name is going to be Marty Mcfly.”



Needles – 1980


Emmett’ hasn’t a break-in in years. Not any serious ones, at least. There’s been the usual list of pranks, handed down from fathers to sons, but mostly it’s harmless stuff. Things Emmett can ignore. What he cannot ignore, though, is a boy apparently called Needles, standing in the middle of Emmett’s home, examining Emmett’s wall of clocks.


“I thought polite people knocked to see if there was someone home before entering others homes,” Emmett remarks as he enters his own home, seeing the boy standing there with his filthy shoes on Emmett’s carpet. Not that the carpet is clean on its own, but Douglas J. Needles doesn’t need to know that. Probably doesn’t care, either.


“So you’re the mad man, then,” says Needles, ignoring Emmett’s remark entirely. “This whole town says you’re crazy, are you really?”


“What do you think?” asks Emmett, bending down to ruffle the fur on top of Einstein’s. The dog patiently lets him.


Needles shrugs. “Don’t know,” he says. “What’s with the clocks?”


“Just find the passage of time interesting,” answers Emmett, pretending not to notice that his video camera is sticking out through Needles’ jacket. Did he really think lunatic Doc Brown wouldn’t notice that?


“Did you want something, kid?” he asks instead, an idea appearing in his mind. “You know, I’ve actually been thinking of getting an assistant. This one’s no good at trying out experiments with me.”


He nods at Einstein and shakes his head, as if he’s disappointed. Something that might be doubt crosses Needles face. “What kind of experiments?” he asks and Emmett chuckles.


“Oh you know, the usual things. Nothing that will result in death and maiming, I assure you. Might hurt a little, though. See, I invented this thing – where is it? I know it’s here somewhere-”


There’s a sudden clatter and Emmett looks up from where he’s been busy rifling through his pile of useless, not-yet-working, stuff that he keeps in the back of his workshop. His video camera is laying abandoned on the floor and Needles himself is sprinting out the door for all he’s worth.



Jennifer Parker – 1981


Emmett’s not really sure what to make of the young lady dressed like Princess Leia from Star Wars sitting awkwardly perched on his couch, Einstein laying with his head in her lap as if this young woman is his new best friend in the whole wide world.


“I’m sorry,” begins Emmett, for what is perhaps the thirtieth time in as many minutes. “I didn’t mean to hit you with the door.”


The girl smiles weakly, pressing the ice pack closer to the bump in her forehead. “Some Halloween for me, huh,” she mutters. “I’m sorry I tried to scare you, really.”


Jennifer Parker, as she introduces herself is thirteen years old and thought this Halloween would be the perfect opportunity to prank the town’s resident crackhead. So, while dressing up with a bunch of friends, she tells Emmett over a cup of tea, she’d made plans to trick or treat the infamous Doc Brown and when he inevitably said no, she’d sneak into his garage and scare him when he’d least expect it.


Up until that point, her plan had worked to perfection. Emmett had wrenched his door open at her knocking, surprised that Halloween had rolled around so quickly and regrettably told her he had no candy. Then he’d closed the door and promptly forgotten about her at which point Jennifer herself had sneaked into his home. He’d been so absorbed by his work that he somehow hadn’t noticed her until Einstein had wandered inside, going straight for her hiding place behind the closet.


Some way or other, she’d ended with the door to the closet in her face when the Doc finally noticed he had an intruder. He’d been very sorry indeed and swiftly produced an ice pack and a cup of tea along with multiple apologies.


“Still,” he tells her when she’s apologized for the tenth time. “I’m sorry for hitting you with the door. Wasn’t really thinking you’d be hiding behind the closet.”


They drink their tea and eat stale cookies Emmett finds in the back of a cupboard and before the night is over Jennifer Parker has a slightly diminished bump on her forehead and a brand new job as Einstein’s walker on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


+ Marty Mcfly – 1982


And finally, the one he’s been waiting twenty seven years for.


Emmett’s been keeping his distance from the Mcfly family for years. Ever since Lorraine Mcfly visited him to get Marty’s blessing for naming her son after himself, in fact. That’s about fourteen years ago, and if he remembers correctly, fourteen years old is how old Marty said he’d be when they met for the first time. So when 1982 comes around, Emmett spends almost everyday feeling like he’s walking on needles. January drags along, as does February, March and April. It’s not until late May something happens and Emmett is very near exploding from wanting to discuss the last three decades with someone and knowing that he’ll meet Marty and still have to keep his mouth shut until late October 1985.


It’s agony, is what it is. He can often be found muttering about it to Einstein, which only strengthens his reputation as the nutty professor in Hill Valley.


Still, that doesn’t make Martin Mcfly any less inclined to stay away. If anything, it just makes him more curious.


The first time they actually meet is in late May when Marty sneaks into Emmett’s lab and home to check out the large jukebox that Emmett doesn’t really remember how or when he got. Maybe he’s had it forever, who knows? Much like Jennifer Parker, Marty Mcfly sneaks into Emmett’s lab while Emmett is busy with other stuff. As usual, it’s Einstein that notices something’s wrong first.


“What’s that, boy?” asks Emmett as Einsteins pads across the room, whining. “What’s wrong?”


Einstein barks at the doors to Emmett’s closet, scratching at them.


Emmett yanks the doors open and out tumbles one Marty Mcfly. Younger than when Emmett last saw him, but otherwise the same.


“Hi,” says Emmett, as he can think of nothing else to say.


“Hi,” answers the kid, rubbing at the back of his head. “I’m sorry?”


“What for?” asks Emmett, gesturing for Marty to sit down on the couch instead of the hard floor.


“Sneaking into your house? I just – I guess I just wanted to see it. Please don’t call the police?”


Emmett shakes his head. “I won’t. I– just, can I ask? I’m in need of an assistant to help out around the lab and you’d fit the bill perfectly.”


A tentative smile graces Marty’s face.


“Maybe,” he says, smile growing. “Can I use your jukebox? That’s why I sneaked inside. Wanted to have a look at it.”


“Of course,” Emmett says, smiling right back. “Of course you can.”