Sequel: Ours
Status: 6/6 Thanks so much everyone!

I've Got A Thing For You


Not for the first time, Rory was wondering who the hell actually went on vacation to Minnesota. No, really. Who actually came home with the biggest smile on their face and said, “Guess where we’re going on vacation, honey? Minnesota!” Well, besides old people and foreigners who didn’t know that Minnesota was just one of those spare states that the U.S. hadn’t been able to convince Canada to annex yet. Who?

Well, apparently her father. The moment he said that, the smile died on her lips. Out of all the places they had left to go -- namely Australia, which is what Rory had been hinting at for months -- he had to pick dull, full-of-trees-and-bears-and-lakes Minnesota. It simply did not compute.

Even on a gorgeous day in July, standing on a dock in the state of Minnesota, Rory was shaking her head in confusion. If this was anywhere else, she thought, I might find it pretty. It wasn’t too crowded on the lake; all the other people out and about were at the other end of the water, their boats small in the distance, looking like paper bobbing on the gentle waves. A soft breeze whistled through the pine trees, and the afternoon sun sparkled off the water. It was, admittedly, kind of perfect…but it was Minnesota.

Rory sighed, readjusting the sunglasses on her nose. “Why am I here?”

Her aunt Maura stared at her from beneath the wide brim of her sunhat. “Because you’re a motherless heathen?”

Rory snorted. “Tell me something I don’t know. Am I being punished?” Aunt Maura opened her mouth to respond, but Rory held up her hand. “No, no, I see it now. This is because of that time with the mustard and the painting, right?”

Aunt Maura reached into her tote bag, pulling out a metal flask. She took a drink of it, and then handed it over to Rory. Despite only being twenty, Rory accepted. She nodded as she swallowed the mouthful of whiskey and smacked her lips together. “Yep. I could be reclining on the beach, watching shirtless Aussie surfers with bodies like gods, a Tequila Sunrise in my hand. But where am I instead? On a dock in the middle of Nowhere, Minnesota, slapping at mosquitoes and getting sunburned.”

Rory’s cousin, Terrence, jumped up on to the dock with them. He had been gone for most of the afternoon, fraternizing with the locals and checking the talent, as he so eloquently put it. As far as Rory was concerned, there was none.

“It’s not hot enough out here to get sunburned.”

“Oh, go away.” Rory flashed him an annoyed glance. “Seriously, where have you even been? You only ever show up to ruin what fleeting moments of joy I have, before you disappear again.”

“Jeez, you’re so melodramatic.” Terrence shook back his damp, blond hair and took the flask from his mother’s hand. “I’ve been meeting new friends. I think you should come with us tomorrow, Rory. I met a couple of guys from this local college and--”

Aunt Maura snatched the flask back, frowning. “Uh-uh. There is a reason she’s here, and it’s not for that.”

“Aha!” Rory snapped her fingers. “So I am being punished!”

Before Aunt Maura could confirm or deny, there was a distant roar from just around the bend of trees a hundred feet from them. They all turned to stare. Big and white, ugly as a beached whale, was a boat and at its helm was Rory’s half-drunk Uncle Ian. As if that wasn’t recipe for disaster enough, her father was leaning over the railing and waving. “Hey girls!” he called, cackling madly.

Terry glanced at Rory. “He can see me, right? Because last I looked, I was a dude.”

“That’s what you think.” Aunt Maura snickered and took a drink from the flask.

Terry scowled. “Mother! That is enough.” He confiscated the flask yet again. “Some people have real problems.”

She laughed. “What, like you?”

“No, like Rory.” He handed Rory the flask, and she took a deep drink.

“Oh god. Why am I here?” she moaned, rubbing a hand against her temple, as if that would make their summer in hell a shorter stay. Unfortunately, she was stuck there for the next month, and already the days were stretching out before her like an obstacle course full of rabid bears intent on killing her before she reached the end.

Aunt Maura patted her arm absently. “Because your dad was afraid of an Italy repeat.”

Rory rolled her eyes. “Seriously? I thought we were past all that!”

Terry reached for the flask, but she slapped his hand away. He dodged and pouted, making a face at her. Aunt Maura stepped between them as the peacekeeper and said, “Rory, your dad came up with these batshit trips so the two of you could bond after your mom took off. Not so you could run off with an Italian model and ignore him for a month.”

“I didn’t ignore him,” Rory grumbled. “I sent him letters by courier.”

Terry snickered. “Let me guess: they rode those funny bikes.”

“It was a Vespa, yes. It was all very Euro-trendsetter, and you know what? I don’t recall ever asking for your opinion.”

Rory drank the last of the whiskey, dropping the flask into her aunt’s tote bag. By then, her uncle had managed to park the boat at the end of the dock. Her dad vanished from view and appeared a moment later in front of them, running down the wooden planks. Rory shook her head at the ridiculous smile on his face. Europe was great, Mexico was cool, but this was all just way too much.

“Rory! Whaddya think?” He gestured to the boat like she had just won it on Wheel of Fortune.

Rory managed some semblance of a smile, though she was buzzed from the whiskey. “I think it’s a boat.” In other words, I have no kind opinions to offer.

“We’re going fishing!”

The smile died again. Not just because Rory didn’t fish, ever, but because she had this thing about water. It was worse on open water, but as far as she was concerned, lakes were just oceans in miniature. Something about all that water, so unpredictable, freaked her out. Just watching all the other people at the opposite end of the lake made her stomach flip-flop nervously. Or that could be the alcohol.

Naturally, she took a step backward and shook her head. “No way.”

Her dad grinned. One second, she was standing there on the dock, preparing to run away as fast as she could while slightly under the influence. In the next, she was scooped up and hanging upside over her dad’s shoulder.

Oh my god,” she shrieked, reaching for her dress and struggling to keep the hem around her knees where it belonged. “Why are you doing this to me?” She started babbling about freshwater sharks and tsunamis, but he just laughed and patted her leg.

“You’ll be fine, sweetie. This boat is completely safe!”

She didn’t point out that her Uncle Ian was at the helm, and that there was nothing safe about a guy with a tattoo on his bald head, but she was too scared to rationalize. By the time her dad set her down on the deck, her knees were wobbling and she was about to hurl over the side. She managed to hobble to the prow and grip the railing tight with both hands, white-knuckling the metal.

Terry followed, racing around and staring at everything with an obnoxious fascination. Aunt Maura climbed aboard with all the grace of the Queen of England surveying her kingdom for the first time. Rory knew it was only because of the doobie her aunt had smoked before they left the cabin; right then, she could have used one of those, but not if she couldn’t unclench her jaw long enough to inhale.

“All aboard?” Uncle Ian asked gruffly, speaking around a cigar. “All right, let’s get going.”

The boat started to move, and Rory’s world spun. She closed her eyes, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, but it wasn’t getting any easier.

Terry laughed at her outright. “Well, you’ve turned a lovely shade of green. It matches your eyes.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

Aunt Maura, at least, hid her laugh with a cough. “Oh, come on. It’s just a boat ride! We’ll just go out to the middle of the lake and--”

Rory opened her eyes long enough to lean over the railing and puke. Aunt Maura wasn’t laughing then, as she rubbed Rory’s back. “Oh, dear. You really don’t like sailing, do you?”

“No…” Rory wiped the corner of her mouth with one hand, before straightening up weakly. “Ugh. Can this trip get any worse?”

“Sure it could,” Terry said brightly. “It could start raining.”

“Are you kidding me? That would be a blessing. Then we could go back to our stupid cabins and--” Rory leaned over and puked again.

Terry stared at her, a look of disgust etched on his face. “You keep doing that, and you’re going to fall.”

Rory straightening, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. She sniffed, glaring at Terry as he ran a hand through his damp blond hair and readjusted the sunglasses on his nose. Rifling through his mom’s tote bag, he yanked out a t-shirt and pulled it on. “Do you still have that flask?”

Rory shook her head, her stomach threatening to overturn itself once more. She leaned over the railing, going slack. She closed her eyes, the summer wind blowing through her dark hair. If she pretended hard enough, she could just see the last summer they had spent with her mom behind her closed lids. She could still feel the summer sun heating her skin, as her mom splashed cool lake water at her.

Ugh. Rory raised her head. A couple of birds hovered overhead, floating on air currents. At the bank nearest them, there was a cooler and a couple of young guys setting up camping chairs. One guy was dragging a boat towards the water, none of them wearing shirts. Rory got an appreciative eyeful, before--

“Rory, you’d better be careful,” Terry warned again. “It’s a long way down.”

Her stomach rolled again, even more so because of the churning boat. She turned around, gritting her teeth when she saw her uncle was slouched back in his seat with a beer in hand, steering the wheel with his feet. “Why don’t you tell your dad that? He’s driving like a maniac.”

“Is it called driving when you’re on a boat? Or is it just steering?” Terry frowned. “Riding? Boating?”

“Who cares. Go tell your dad to cool it.”

“Nah, your dad’s already on it.” The two of them watched as Rory’s dad attempted to wrestle the unsteady wheel from Ian’s feet. Ian immediately protested, his voice carrying. He was yelling something about communism, and Terry laughed quietly. “He’s a little bit drunk.”

“A little?” Rory rolled her eyes. Her aunt glided over to intervene between the two brothers, and the same queasy feeling returned to Rory’s stomach. She let go of the railing, holding her hands to her stomach. “Ergh. Remind me to never drink before boating.”

“See, it is boating!”

“Shut up, Terrence. God, you’re so--” The words were snatched right from Rory’s mind, as the boat suddenly jerked to the right. Her father and uncle were all out wrestling for the wheel, while her aunt hollered about their uncanny ability to embarrass her in a state where nobody even lived--something Rory agreed with completely.

She reached back with one hand to grip the railing, but her fingers slid off the metal. Terry was muttering under his breath, about to turn to her to say something, when there was a grinding sound and they stopped short with a crash. Terry stumbled into her; she was knocked backwards off her feet.

There was a shriek behind her, just one word -- “Rory!” -- before she was falling. Her head slammed into something solid, black spots flashing in her vision before she hit the water. It stung, her entire body feeling like it was being pricked with needles, as the water closed over her head. It wouldn’t be this cold in Australia, she thought, opening her eyes to murky water. Bubbles swam in front of her face, and she could just make out a dark shape in front of her growing larger. Hopefully they’re going to save me, because I’ve suddenly forgotten how to swim. Her arms and legs felt too heavy, water burning in her nose, filling her lungs, choking her--

Oh my god, please don’t let me die, she thought desperately. This is the worst way to go. I never even got to have sex in a Lamborghini. I never even got to--

Rory was just starting to close her eyes when something grabbed her around her midsection and hauled. She was vaguely thinking the word arm before she was pulled up through the water. She slipped a couple of inches, before breaking through the surface. Almost immediately, she dropped back down and sucked in another mouthful of disgusting lake water. The arm yanked her up again.

“Oh my God, do you even know how to swim? Come on; I can’t hold you up forever!”

Rory coughed, spitting out a mouthful of water. Whoever was holding her up let her drop again, before gripping her arms tight enough to bruise and bringing her back above the surface.

“That’s for spitting water in my face. Now, will you open your eyes or something? Because if you die, I’m screwed.”

“F-fuck you.” Rory opened her eyes, blinking away water. Several inches from her face, there was a pair of enormous chocolate-brown eyes beneath even darker eyebrows. “Oh, wow.”

The owner of those eyes frowned. “What?”

“You have incredible eyelashes.”

“Hit your head pretty hard there, eh?” He smiled for a second, his teeth straight and pearly white, his lips utterly kissable. Rory stared, clumsily treading water, though she was freezing and her legs were trembling. “What do you say we get out of here?”

“That’s my favorite sentence ever.”

“I bet. Come on, wrap your arms around me.”

Rory was only too happy to oblige. He said she hit her head, but she would’ve found him cute even on a good day. She thought he looked familiar; he might’ve been one of the guys on the shore, but she couldn't be sure. She wrapped her arms around his middle, along for the ride as he swam towards land. She could feel his muscles moving with the easy strength of someone who used them frequently. She tried to think of what it could be, but her mind felt foggy, and it was hard to imagine anything.

The shore wasn’t far, but the time they got there, he was all too happy to shake her off. He flopped down on the sand, one arm over his eyes. “Oh my god, you’re heavy.”

“Just what every girl wants to hear.” Rory dragged her legs up under herself, crouching beside him. She could still see the boat in the distance, and a figure staring in her direction that looked an awful lot like Terry. She waved.

Her mysterious savior sat up, sand stuck to his back and arms. “It’s probably because of that dress you’re wearing.” His eyes flicked briefly down to her chest, before he looked away, brushing sand from his arm.

She looked down, too. Her white sundress was soaked through, turned completely transparent, showing off the polka-dotted bra and matching thong she was rocking on that particular day. She didn’t even have the energy to care. “Great. Awesome. Well, thanks for saving me, I guess.”

Saving you? You crashed into my boat and it capsized. You nearly killed me!”

She frowned. “Is that why you’re all wet?”

His answer was to shake out his dark hair like a dog, spraying Rory with water. She didn’t even hold up a hand to shield herself; she felt too weak, and definitely a little light-headed. When she put a palm to her forehead, it came away scarlet. Her eyes widened. “Holy shit, I’m bleeding!

“Yeah, you crashed into my boat. Hit your head on the edge and everything.” He scooted closer, inspecting Rory’s head. “Come to think of it, you might need stitches.”

Her head spun. First boats, now needles. Jesus, this vacation sure is off to a great start. “That’s inadvisable. I have this thing about needles…”

He snorted. “Like you have a thing about swimming?” He rotated one of his arms, stretching it out gingerly. “Man, I think I pulled something.”

“What do you expect me to say? I had a little something to drink, I hate boats, and I hit my head on your stupid--”

“What, you have a thing about boats too?” He suddenly started laughing.

Rory didn’t find it particularly amusing. “Hey, don’t laugh at me! Ships go under all the time. You ever seen the movie Titanic? Water kills people!”

“Yeah, it almost killed you.” He shook his head, like he couldn’t believe it. “Who are you, anyway? You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”

“Rory Montgomery. Traveler, photographer, and…boat-capsizer.” Rory held out her hand, but she lost her balance. She started to tilt backwards.

A warm hand appeared at the small of her back, catching her. His face hovered over hers. “Matt Niskanen. You know, you really probably should go to the hospital.”

God, he’s cute. “But…” Her eyelids were closing, and she couldn’t fight them, not even to keep staring into those dark eyes. “I have this thing…about hospitals…”

His laugh was the last thing she heard.


This wasn’t exactly how Matt expected to spend his afternoon.

“Dude,” Mason said, his voice crackling in the speaker of Matt’s phone. “Where did you go?”

In the background, Matt could hear Nate. “We found the boat; it got fucked up!”

“Yeah,” Mason agreed. “What the hell happened?”

Where did he even begin? He had just taken the boat they’d rented out to the water, to test it out and look for a couple of fish. Nate, Mason, and Mac had just started to call out to him to get his ass back to the shore when the annoyingly loud boat next to him, the one scaring away all the fish, started heading straight past him towards the opposite bank. It hit the sand with a crash, and then out of nowhere a girl was plunging towards him headfirst. He managed to dive out of the way, but she took out the rickety boat they’d rented and went under. When she didn’t immediately come back up, he panicked, diving after her.

Like finding buried treasure. Matt looked over at the girl slumped against the window in his passenger seat. Her dark curls hid her face, her hair dripping. Her white dress was still transparent, and he couldn’t help but let his eyes wander over the swell of hip and thigh nearest to him.

He glanced in the rearview mirror. Her family was following behind him, two cars back. He doubted they would appreciate the thoughts running through his mind right now. Even alone (not counting her), he almost blushed.

Okay, come on, quit being a creep. Focus. He let out a breath, tightening his hands on the wheel. “I don’t know if you’ll believe me.”

Matt could picture Mason rolling his eyes. “Are you kidding me? How long have we known each other, Nisky? I believe everything you say.”

“What about that time I told you I nailed Natasha Porter?”

“You were drunk. How could I believe that half-lucid ramble? Besides,” Mason snickered. “You’re too nice to use the word nailed.”

Matt would’ve normally protested, but Mason was right. That wasn’t the point, though. “Well, I’m sort of headed back to Duluth.”

“Sort of? Or you are?”

Matt sighed. “I am.”

Mason didn’t sound annoyed, per se, but he didn’t sound particularly pleased, either. “Dude, we’re supposed to be having bro time."

In the background, Matt could hear Nate gasp. "Is he disrespecting bro time?"

Matt rolled his eyes. “We are having bro time. But uh…something came up.” He glanced at the girl again.

“Yeah? What?”

“This girl fell off a boat and into ours.”

Mason didn’t reply for a minute. “Are you serious?”

“I wouldn’t lie about this. Well, maybe I would, but not to you. She hit her head on the side of the boat, and she was bleeding, so I told her family I would take her to the hospital.”

“Seriously? Who is she?”

Rory Montgomery, she’d said her name was. Traveler, photographer, and boat-capsizer. She was witty, he’d give her that, but she’d wrecked his boat. A guy just couldn’t look past that, especially since he was going to have to pay for it. And yet, he still found himself smiling without meaning to. Stop it. She’s crazy. His mouth refused to obey.

“Her name is Rory. She--” A loud groan filled the car, and she suddenly stirred at the sound of her name. She raised her head from the t-shirt pillow he’d made for her, ignoring the bloodstain on it.

My mom’s going to be pissed, he thought. “Uh, can I call you back?”

“Matt, do not hang up on me.”

“I gotta go!”

“No, do not--”

Matt snapped his phone shut and set it down in the empty ash tray. Rory put a hand to her head, looking over at him, her face a mixture of pain and confusion. “Oh my god, my head,” she moaned, gingerly touching the cut with a finger. She winced. “Oh shit. What--what happened? Who are you?” Her grey-green eyes widened, before narrowing into slits. “Wait. I remember you. You’re that jerk who tried to kill me.”

Kill you? You fell on me!”

She put her hands over her ears, shutting her eyes. “Ugh, stop yelling. Where are you taking me?”

“The hospital. Your family is following us.”

She opened her eyes and dropped her hands, glancing in the rearview mirror. “Oh my god, this is not how things were supposed to go,” she muttered, slumping back in the seat. “My dad is going to kill me. This is just like Vegas all over again!”

Matt frowned, tempted to ask her what she was talking about, when suddenly she reached over and grabbed his arm. He stared down at the slender fingers wrapped around his bicep. “What’s wrong?”

Her face had gone an eerie shade of white. “Matt, I think I’m going to puke.”

“But we’re almost to the hospital!” He looked at his speedometer. He was already doing seventy-five in a sixty zone; if he got pulled over, they were fucked.

She put one hand to the side of her face. He could see her fingers trembling. “Oh god,” she murmured.

“Um, can you just…I dunno, hold it?”

She glared at him. “It’s not like peeing!”

Panic seized him. His car was his baby; he’d had it since high school, and there was no way he was going to let some random girl throw up in it. “Take the wheel.” She sent him a startled look, but he didn’t acknowledge it. She did as he said, while he reached around into the backseat and grabbed an old fast food bag. He upended the garbage still left inside it, dumping stale fries and crumpled napkins all over the floor, before handing it to her. They traded, the wheel for the bag.

She eyed the grease stains with disgust. Her cheeks had turned green. “Are you serious?”

“Sorry if I don’t exactly want you puking in my car,” he snapped, surprising himself. He wasn’t normally that mean, but something about this crazy girl pushed his buttons. “Sorry,” he immediately said, glancing at her. “I mean that. Sorry you cut your head, and sorry that--”

She held up a hand, and he thought she was going to throw up. Instead she pointed to the windshield. “We’re here.”

She was right. They drove past the sign announcing St. Mary’s, and he pulled into the parking lot. Fairly skidding into a parking spot, he threw off his seatbelt and prepared to launch out of the car. She grabbed his arm again, though, stopping him.



She looked uncomfortable. “Um. Well, I guess I just wanted to say…” She trailed off, looking down hesitantly.

“Yeah?” He prompted her.

She opened her mouth to reply. Instead, she leaned forward and, rather than puking in the bag in her hands, she spewed all over him and the gearshift between them. He gasped, looking down in horror at his torso and arm, the entire scenario made worse by the fact that she had his shirt.

She stared at him, at the mess she’d made, tears in her eyes. “Oh my god, I suck,” she announced, before promptly passing out again, her head falling against the dashboard with a thunk.

Covered in vomit, Matt had no choice but to agree with her. When he explained all of this to his teammates later, he was going to leave this part out. He sighed, stepping out of the car, right as her family pulled into the parking spot beside his. They stared at him through the windows. The lady he assumed to be her aunt pulled out a camera and took a picture of him.

Yeah, when Matt agreed to go camping with his buddies over the summer, this was not what he’d had in mind.
♠ ♠ ♠
Chapter Tunes:
"Tangled Up In Me" [Rory] -- "Punch-Drunk Love" [Matt]

For the record, I love Minnesota. Well, I've never been there, but I like a couple of their sports teams. And did I mention this was about college Nisky? Because it is :) Go Bulldogs!

Happy Valentine's Day, darlings. Hope you have a good one!