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

I've Got A Thing For You


When there’s nothing to remember, there’s nothing to forget. At least, that was what Matt tried to tell himself.

On the first day of August, he and the guys packed up and split. He couldn’t stop himself from staring in the rearview mirror at the cabin where they’d made so many memories. He drove his car back home to Virginia, imagining he could still see Rory in the passenger seat. Her ghost lingered around every corner, and he could still hear her laugh in the back of his mind. When his parents asked what he and the boys had done the entire month, he just shrugged, said “Went fishing.” He spent the last two weeks of his summer laying around his house, hoping he would die. At least then, the pain would stop.

School started in September. He settled back in at the Arrowhead apartments, juggling roommate drama, homework, and hockey. He didn’t give himself time to think of Rory, and each night, he fell asleep with his face stuck to his assignments or on the couch in their living room. He was exhausted, pushing himself every day at the rink, waiting for the season to start in October.

Mason and the guys tried their hardest to get him out of what they called his “summer funk.” They went to homecoming parties, drinking on the weekends when they weren’t bogged down with homework. Melissa set him up a couple of times with single friends of hers, but at the end of the night, he didn’t have anything left to say and kissing them felt wrong. The guys took him hunting, paintball-shooting, fishing, hiking. They plastered the walls of the room he shared with Mason with pages ripped from porn magazines, and filled his trunk with condoms. Eventually, they all gave up. The only one who still tried was Mason, and he channeled it into hockey, setting up Matt for more goals than he normally would have gotten. It helped ease some of the tension, but Matt still dreamt of her at night.

By October, he could think of Rory without wanting to smash something or bury his head beneath his pillow. When November rolled around, he was okay to say her name out loud. December arrived in a blizzard, and then he only thought of her a couple hundred times a day, instead of a thousand. He wondered where she was in the world. Some nights when he couldn’t sleep, he would sneak into the library and spin one of the globes they had in there, picking places at random, wondering if she was there, if she was thinking of him or if she had moved on entirely.

It took him until midway through December to realize the toll it was taking. They were playing University of Wisconsin in a rare home series. Matt was relieved; he hated the trips back and forth, especially when he knew his homework was piling up back on campus. They were down by one in the third period, and they’d already lost the day before. If Wisconsin won again that night, they’d sweep, and Matt wanted to prevent that from happening at all costs.

He was thinking of Rory, wondering what she was going to do for Christmas, when he was checked hard from behind in the middle of the third. The crowd at the DECC erupted into boos, but it was a legal hit. The Badger had done what he wanted, stealing the puck from Matt and zipping away. Scrambling back to his feet, he took off after the guy down the length of the ice, but he wasn’t fast enough. The guy got a breakaway, and Nate didn’t stand a chance; he dived for the puck, but the guy went top shelf. The few Badger fans cheered. Matt groaned, skating to the bench.

“Dude, where is your head tonight?” Mason asked, as they took a seat beside one another. “I dunno if it’s her, or something else, but you need to seriously get it together.”

Luckily on the next shift, the Badgers fumbled with the puck, turning it over to Mac. He passed it to his line mate, Nick Kemp, and he scored. Mason cheered from beside him, but Matt didn’t feel much better. They were still behind by one, and thoughts of Rory had caused him to fuck up.

It’s been months, he thought savagely. It's time to move on.

What was worse than her still being on the brain was that he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to move on, he wanted to give up homework and hockey, he wanted to track her down and find her. He tried telling himself there was nothing there, but it was getting harder and harder to lie to himself each day.

His shift came up again, and he and Mason took to the ice with the others. He forced all thoughts of Rory to the back of his mind, trying to focus on the game at hand. Mason managed to get control of the puck, sending it spinning down into Wisconsin’s zone. He and his current defensive partner, Meyers, followed it. McFarland passed it to Mason, who passed it to Meyers. Meyers faked a Wisconsin defender out, shooting it down the blue line to Matt. He skated forward with it a few feet, before sending it through the middle of three guys, straight to Mason, who tapped it home behind their goalie. They all converged on Mason, yelling and tapping his helmet, before skating back to the bench.

“Fucking awesome,” Mason was saying as they sat down again, bumping Matt’s shoulder.

There were five minutes left. The game was tied.


“Rory, let’s go!”

“Five minutes!” she called over her shoulder, rifling around beneath her bed. She had been back in Syracuse since Thanksgiving, but she had yet to get organized. Four suitcases covered the floor of her room, thrown open, spilling clothes and shoes all over the place. She was just trying to find her white cashmere sweater, but it was nowhere, lost in all the mess.

She sat back on her heels, sighing. At least once a year, the magazine they worked for got together in Syracuse, where their offices were. Usually, it was for the holidays, as it was that evening. Each and every writer, photographer, and editor was there, families included, and they got sloshed on eggnog and talked about all the weird things they had seen. Rory didn’t particularly want to go, but she felt she owed it to her dad, so it was happening.

Or it would be, if she could find that sweater. It had snowflakes on it; she bought it in Canada the last time they’d been there. She started going through the suitcase closest to her, but the moment she pulled out bathing suits and flowing shirts, she knew it was wrong. That was the Australia Suitcase.

Rory had stayed in Australia for just two weeks. It was beautiful, with amazing weather and even nicer people, but she just didn’t take to it. She spent the majority of her time there either alone, or indoors. She just wasn’t up to spending time with anyone, something that was unusual for her. Eventually, she no longer wanted to burden Terry, so she split. She told Terry she didn’t know how to relax, that she would feel better if she was working, so she decided to meet up with her dad in Belize. They’d done a piece together for the September issue of Wanderlust, before heading to Papua New Guinea. There, they met a tribe of aborigines that tattooed a sign of their people on Rory’s ribcage using a two-inch long thorn and charcoal mixed with water. It was the most painful thing she had undergone, besides leaving Minnesota.

She had tried everything she could to forget about Matt, but it was like she wasn’t Rory Montgomery anymore. Something about that summer had changed her, and she couldn’t even take joy in her usual drunken debauchery. She was startled to learn when she was in Australia that she no longer stared at guys. It happened upon her all at once when Terry pointed it out, and she spent the next week ogling the locals in such a fashion that she began frightening people away, trying to force herself into it again. She felt sick and miserable, like she was coming down with an illness that never took shape. She wanted to visit the tribes in Papua New Guinea as a sort of cleansing technique, stepping away from material things for a few weeks, in the hopes that it would wash whatever she’d been infected with in Minnesota from her system.

It didn’t. Even when she tried to focus on communicating with the natives, it lurked in the back of her mind, churning through her stomach. She couldn’t sleep at night, and ended up spending most nights staring up at the stars, longing for all the colors of the northern lights. All she felt was longing; her skin rippled with pure desire, changing her into someone she had never thought she could be.

The tattoo helped, dulling the emotions with physical pain, but her feelings didn’t go away completely. Her dad was concerned, but when she just told him she wasn’t feeling well, he nodded and didn’t pursue it. She almost wished he would, but she wouldn’t know what to say.

She returned to Syracuse hoping to start over. So far, she had only managed to finally take the bandages off her ribs and lose her cashmere sweater.

“Rory, we’re going to be late!”


She moved on to the next suitcase, another one she had mostly unpacked. She threw handfuls of clothes through the air, digging, finding only skirts, jeans, t-shirts, the scent of pine needles and at the bottom of it all, a magazine.

She paused. She pulled it out and flipped it over. It took her a second to realize what she was looking at. When she did, she gasped.

It was the July issue of Wanderlust, still looking as pristine as the day it had been printed. On the front were the usual blurbs advertising what was within, but that wasn’t that made her stare. It was the picture on the cover. A girl was standing on a wooden dock or deck, wearing a pair of cut-off shorts and a dark blue t-shirt. She was facing away from the camera, arms up on the railing. One of her feet was flat on the wooden planks, the other balancing on her toes in nonchalance. In the distance was a lake, framed by the bluest sky she had ever seen, and dark green trees in the background. Two white boats floated in the distance.

She might’ve suspected even if she didn’t know, judging by the clothes and the dark curls that spilled down the girl’s back, but it was the birthmark behind the left knee that gave it away.

That’s me.

Rory scrambled to her feet, flying from her room and down the stairs. She skidded to a halt in the living room. Her dad was already dressed, wearing a festive red sweater and black slacks. He was watching the Maple Leafs game.


“Are you finally ready?” He twisted around, one arm up on the back of the couch. He frowned when he saw her in a black skirt and a bra. “Uh, honey, you can’t wear that to the party.”

She took two steps forward, heart hammering in her ears. “What is this?” She shook the magazine in his face.

He frowned, taking the magazine from her and looking at the cover. “It’s the July issue. Remember, I gave it to you before we left Minn--”

“Yeah, I remember. But what is that picture? That’s not one of mine.”

“Yes, it is.”

“How can it be? I’m in it.”

“Did Terry take it? Because it was on your memory card.”

“It… Wait, really?”

She thought back to that particular day, but her memories were fuzzy. She hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the night before, and she could only remember snapshots. She remembered Duluth, laughing in the Bulldog store, making fish faces at the aquarium, eating ice cream and then… She set her camera down. She set her camera down on the table at the dock, and walked away. She remembered looking out at the lake, feeling utterly at peace and nothing like she did now.

“Oh my god,” she said aloud, snatching the magazine back and looking at the picture. The angle was all wrong; it couldn’t be Terry. There was only one other person it could have been. “Matt,” she said, her voice soft. “Matt took this.”

“How do you know?”

“I remember.” She ran her fingers over the cover, as if that would somehow make it better.

She missed him more than anyone. She didn’t know what missing was until she realized how much she wanted to be around him. It wasn’t just the sex, it was the other stuff too: the laughter, the sleeping tangled up in each other, the nights spent lying awake just talking. He was the sweetest guy she had ever met, and that was saying something, considering how much he annoyed her. He spent most of the time laughing at her, making fun of her and all her weird little quirks, but he always followed it with a kiss to the forehead. He opened doors for her and held her hands and told her stories to help her fall asleep. He was the best thing that had happened to her, and she let it slip away. It had been everything; she still had the scar on her forehead to prove it.

He was everything.

“You two were pretty into it, huh?” Her dad was looking at her knowingly, waiting.

“Dad, I…” She suddenly choked, so overwhelmed with emotion that she could barely form the words. “I know what I’ve done in the past, with all the places we’ve been. Like the times with London, and Italy, and New York, where I’ve run off and left you, and done stupid, stupid things to make you think less of me.”

He sat up, shaking his head. “Rory, no--”

“Wait, please, let me finish.” Her vision swam, but she couldn’t stop now. “I’ve given you no reason to trust me or believe me, because let’s face it, I’ve been a bitch, and I’ve been just like Mom, and I know that must be painful to see, but I never thought about it hurting anyone, and I never even imagined I’d stop, but this time… Oh, this time, it was different. I…I don’t even know what happened. I mean, I didn’t even want to go to Minnesota, I thought I hated it there, but it turns out, it was the best thing to ever happen to me because I…” She faltered. “Dad, this is my Botswana.”

His eyes softened. “You love him.”

“I do. Oh god, Dad, I love him. I’m in love with Matt Niskanen.”

It had taken her a stupidly long time to figure it out, but there it was. She loved him and she had been a bitch, too scared to face the facts, too scared to think that someone might actually, that someone would really, but then he told her he loved her, that he wanted her to stay, and she left, and it was occurring her all at once, so hard, so fast, she felt like she was falling from the roof of a skyscraper and plummeting towards the ground, but she wanted to stay, she did, she should have, and now months had gone by and Matt…

“But it’s been months,” she whispered. “What if he’s moved on? What do I do?”

“There’s only one thing to do.” Her dad stood, pointing to the stairs. “Go back up there, pack a bag. I’m going to book you a flight to Duluth.”

“For when?”

“For now!”

She nearly fell over. “Are you serious?”

He approached her, grasping her hands in his. “Rory, listen to me. I loved your mom from the moment I saw her. She was wild and wonderful and free, and she stole my heart. We did what we did, and we loved you even more, because you were the best parts of both of us.” He shrugged slightly. “Sure, she did you some wrong in the end. I’m not sure if she was ever ready to be a mother, but she did try, for both our sakes. Despite all that, I still love her, and I wouldn’t change her for anything. Some wild you just can’t tame. Besides, if she was a different person, you wouldn’t be you, and I love you for who you are. Not some idea of who you should be, or what you ought to be like, but you. And if this boy loves you for that same reason, and you love him for him, then I want you to go after it. You go after your Minnesota.”

“You mean my Botswana?”

“No, honey. Your Minnesota.”

Rory nodded, unable to speak. She would have gone after Matt anyway, but knowing that her dad backed her decision meant the world. Her dad kissed her forehead. “Go pack. We’re leaving for the airport in ten minutes. Oh, and Ro?”


He grinned playfully. “Remember to put a shirt on. Don’t wanna give the poor kid a heart attack.”

She laughed, almost hysterically, before he nudged her towards the stairs. Rory took the stairs two at a time, her heartbeat pounding a mantra into her head. My Minnesota, my Minnesota, my Minnesota.


When Matt stepped into the hallway in his apartment building, the crowd of people within began cheering, raising beers and red solo cups in salute. He stopped, stunned, his gear bag hanging low on his shoulder. From one of the apartments down the hall, loud music was playing, and Matt managed to smile, as he slowly made his way through the din. On the inside, though, he was anything but okay.

Mason, I’m going to kill you.

They had won the game in overtime. He hadn’t scored the game-winner, but he had made the play that gave Mason the goal, his second of the night. They split the series with Wisconsin, and with finals week over, he understood that they wanted to party, but all he wanted to do was sleep after the game. He was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and wanted to hibernate until school resumed in January, until the sun started shining once more.

He ran into Mason right outside their door. He had an arm wrapped around one of Melissa’s friends, Hannah, and a red solo cup in his free hand. When he saw Matt, his eyes lit up. “Hey, there’s my favorite d-man!”

Matt narrowed his eyes. “Can I talk to you?”

“Sure.” He handed his cup to Hannah, before Matt pulled open the door to their apartment and shoved Mason inside. When he stumbled slightly, he glanced at Matt unsurely. “What’s your problem?”

“What’s with the party, dude?”

Mason scowled, picking an invisible piece of lint from his sleeve and rolling his shoulders. “We played a hard game and I think I actually passed all my finals. Excuse me for wanting to celebrate.”

“Fine, I don’t care. Just don't bring any girls back to our room, and I’m not cleaning this up tomorrow.”

“You’re not going to at least have one drink?” Mason’s expression eased up, and he lowered his gaze. “Not even one?”

“Uh, probably not. Why?”

“You look tired, dude. You should hit the hay.” He sent a pointed glance in the direction of their room.

Matt frowned. “Did you guys do something to the room again?”

Mason’s blue eyes were wide. “Nope. Not me. Just uh…have a good night.” With a sly smile, he excused himself. He shut the door behind him, sealing Matt in silence, the sounds of the party dim and far away.

Matt sighed. He dropped his gear right there in the living room, stepping over it and proceeding to their shared bedroom with some hesitance. It was probably a blow-up doll hanging from the ceiling fan, or the doorway cling-wrapped so he would run into it. He wouldn’t put it past them; they’d all done shit like that before. As he neared the closed door, he could hear music playing, but it wasn’t from the party. It was softer, within. Frowning, he reached for the doorknob.

The light was on, the fan clicking overhead. The stereo they shared was on, playing one of Matt’s favorite CD’s. The usual mess was still scattered over the floor: boxers, dirty socks, notes from classes, school books, video game cases, wires spilling out from beneath the two desks crammed into such a small space. Mason and Matt’s single beds were on opposite sides of the room, Mason’s bed its usual hurricane of sheets and covers falling over the sides and masking all the empty chip bags and comics lost beneath. Matt’s bed, however, was made. Laying on it was a prone girl, kicking her feet up in the air, reading an old copy of The Hockey News. She was wearing a pair of Minnesota-Duluth sweatpants and a black t-shirt, her dark hair pulled up in a loose ponytail.

“Did you know the number of men’s college hockey players who go pro is something like 4.1 percent?” She turned the page. “Looks like you have your work cut out for you.”

Matt stared. He had left his brain somewhere back in the living room, and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Rory snapped the magazine shut, tossing it onto his pillow and sitting up. She stretched languidly, the hem of her shirt rising slightly over the waistband of her sweatpants. When she lowered her arms, she just smiled.


Matt blinked, shaking his head. “Hi. Sorry, but…am I hallucinating?”

She shook her head. “I just flew in from Rochester.”

“But that’s like, an eight hour flight.”

“Typically. And it’s a funny story, actually. Apparently my dad knows a guy with a jet. You know, one of those really fast suckers. So, here I am, in half the time.”

“But…why?” A smarter, more succinct question didn't come to mind at that moment. What about everything you said?

Her smile faded. Rory nodded, looking down. “You have every reason to wonder that. I said some pretty dumb things. I guess the main reason I came back was because…” She reached behind her, for one of the other magazines spread out on the coverlet. She held it up so he could see it. “Of this.”

He closed the distance between them, reaching for the magazine. He took it from her, examining the cover. It was the magazine she and her dad worked on, and the cover was the one picture of her he had taken, back when he thought she was hot and crazy and completely unattainable. He knew one was true, one was definitely possible, but the third one… His heart was doing this crazy thing inside his chest, filling with warmth, and he started thinking that maybe, just maybe, with her sitting cross-legged on his bed and looking at him with sincere hazel eyes, she just might be attainable. She just might be his.

Still, he handed it back to her. He had to be sure. “And? You just thought you’d hop on a jet, come back here, and la-la-la, everything would be fine? That’s not very realistic, is it?”

Rory’s lips quirked. “You’re right, it’s not. But you know, life is crazy, and sometimes weird shit happens. I think I just forgot that for a moment.” She licked her lips. “My dad and I went to Papua New Guinea a month ago, and we did a piece of this tribe of people called the Tufi. We lived with them for a while, and you know, I think I actually learned something. About me and you.”

Slowly, Matt sat down beside her, but not close enough so they were touching. “What did you learn?”

“As a coming of age ritual, girls get their faces tattooed. It’s a sign of them making the transition from child to woman. My dad and I had such a great time with the tribe, that when I asked, they agreed to tattoo a small sign on me. Obviously not my face, because they understand cultures are different, but...” She raised her shirt, exposing her bare ribcage. Just below her left breast, there was a dark inscription, in the shape of a star. Flowery swirls spiraled out from it.

“Can I…?”


He spread his fingers over it. The skin was raised, the ink barely a month old. He couldn’t imagine any group of people being described as a tribe having access to sanctioned equipment; he wondered precisely how painful it must have been for her to endure. He took his hand away, a shiver running through him.

“So anyway,” she said, letting her shirt fall. “They did that for me, and once we were back home in Syracuse, I started to realize something.” She turned, meeting his gaze. “The women there get their faces tattooed entirely. To us, here in America, that’s weird, and maybe kind of gross to some people. Right?” When he shrugged, she went on. “To them, it’s normal. It’s an honor to represent their people and their ancestors. I talked to some of the boys there, and they said they wouldn’t find a woman without tattoos as attractive as one with tattoos. It’s all about perspective.”

“So you're saying...?”

“I’m saying that to them, those girls would look amazing, that they would be amazing. Even though the rest of the world might find them strange, to the tribe, they’re completely normal and they’re wonderful. My entire life, I’ve always been that way: kind of odd, kind of out there. My mom ran off when I was fourteen because she was tired of raising me, of being tied down to this life she never wanted. I guess I learned pretty early on that it’s just easier to run away when the going gets tough, when I was scared, and I guess…what you said scared me.”

“What I said?”

“You told me you loved me.”

Matt didn’t have a reply, his words drying up in the back of his throat. He just nodded.

“Nobody’s ever told me that before. I was always kind of a love ’em and leave ’em type, because I was scared of becoming my mom. But then I ran off on you, and I realized that somewhere along the way, I was her. In trying so hard to escape it, it happened.” She looked away, rubbing her temple, but Matt could’ve sworn her eyes were shining just a little too bright. “But if you really do love me, it must be because you saw something. Maybe all that shit that the rest of the world thinks is weird, is what made you fall in the first place…and maybe that’s why I love you, too.”

Matt’s jaw dropped. Somehow, he managed to speak, words creaking up his rusty throat. “You do?”

“I do. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it, I’ve just never done this before and even right now… Look!” She raised her hands. They were trembling visibly. “I feel like I’ve lost my mind; I must have, because out of the blue, I jumped on this really nice jet and flew to Minnesota, the last place on earth I would have expected to fall in love, but I did, and now I’m here with you.” She blinked back tears, but he could tell it was difficult for her. “And I guess I’m just hoping your feelings haven’t changed, or that there isn’t some other girl waiting out there with all your friends, wondering where you’ve gotten off to.”

Matt was dumbstruck. He didn’t know what to think. He had been pining after her since the week they’d met, and just when he thought it was over, suddenly she appeared back in his life, almost like she’d never left. It was like the day she had first entered his life, falling from a giant boat and crashing into him. That was who she was. She was going to crash her way through life, no matter what anyone else thought, and he wanted to be there beside her. Because she was right, about the tattoos. She was weird and wonderful, crazy and cool, beautiful and brave and everything he ever wanted. He had never done anything crazy or reckless in his life. He rarely broke the rules. But with Rory, all that was about to change.

He didn’t care if it wasn’t realistic. He didn’t care what his parents would say. The world had color again, and that was all that mattered.

Suddenly, he launched to his feet and strode out of the room. Rory squawked from behind him, but he didn’t stop. Practically running, he threw open the door to the apartment, halting outside in the hallway where the party was still in full swing. Mason was almost exactly where he’d left him, except this time, he was talking to two girls. Matt reached for Mason’s shoulder, spinning him around. Mason wavered, slightly drunk, liquid sloshing out of his cup.

It took Mason a second to focus his gaze on Matt, but when he did, he grinned. “Hey, man! What’s up?”

“I love you, man.” He yanked Mason into a hug.

“I love you too, bro! For real.” Mason laughed, clapping Matt on the back when they separated. His gaze skipped past Matt, his grin widening. “Did I do good?”

Matt turned. Rory was standing there, leaning in the doorway. She bit her lip, smiling. She nodded. “Not bad for an accomplice. At least you can keep your mouth shut. Terry would’ve spilled the secret immediately.”

“Yeah, I win!” Mason fist-pumped away into the crowd, the girls trailing after him, shooting Matt dirty looks as they went. Matt didn’t even care. He laughed to himself, before reaching for Rory.

She met him halfway, standing on her tiptoes, curling her fingers into the fabric of his shirt. He kissed her fiercely, with all the frustration and longing he’d been drowning in for the past few months, cupping her face and backing her up against the wall. He wanted to memorize the feel of her lips, the pathways of her skin, the beat of her heart. And we have all the time in the world.

“Matt,” she said, breaking the kiss. She was breathless. “Can I get out of these?” Her gaze flicked down to her legs. “I have this thing about sweatpants…”

Matt laughed, taking her hand. “I think we can manage that."


Later that night, Rory was awake beside Matt in bed, too happy to sleep. She lay on her stomach, hair spilling over her bare back, staring up out the window over his desk. The curtains were open, the blinds parted slightly, and moonlight fell over them in an arc, illuminating the silent snow falling on the ground below. The night was cold and still.

Campus police had finally broken the party up around midnight, getting noise complaints from what Mason drunkenly referred to as the “reefer geeks.” She had no idea what that meant, but she was relieved. In the silence, it felt like just her and Matt, alone at the end of the world.

They had done the typical college thing, hanging a sock from the doorknob. Mason hadn’t ever come knocking; he had probably found some other bed to crawl into, probably with one of the cheerleaders. The whole thing made Rory laugh. She had never gone to college, had never gotten the opportunity to do that, and it felt exciting. She had a feeling she was going to do a lot of things with Matt that she had never done before. Each day would be a brand-new experience for the both of them.

She looked over at him. He was facing the wall, lips parted. His chest rose with each calm, heavy breath. She reached over with one hand, playing with the slight curls at the back of his neck. He didn’t stir, and she smiled, leaning over and kissing his chest.

On his bedside table, her phone suddenly lit up. She reached for it, squinting at the text in the dark. It was from her dad. It read, “What’s the verdict, kiddo?”

Rory’s smile only widened. Glancing at Matt one last time, she texted her father back. From beside her, Matt turned in his sleep, mumbling her name, one arm pulling her closer.

“Thank god for Minnesota.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Chapter Tunes:
"Summerlong" [Rory] -- "Once In A Lifetime" [Matt]

The end! Hope you liked it :) I had a lot of fun writing this. For more Matt and Rory, subscribe to the sequel, Ours (link at the top of the page).