Pairing: Nudists (Rory/Marty).
Summary: How different would her life have turned out if she had fallen for Marty their freshmen year? Romance/Humor, some smut.
Timeline: Begins in Season 4.
Backstory: All events from Seasons 1-3 are canon for this story except for one. Rory takes out loans for school rather than having her grandparents pay for it, but they still all have Friday Night Dinners together (by choice, not obligation).
Spoilers: Pretty much all seasons.
Disclaimer: All characters, most plot points, and some dialogue belong to ASP. I'm grateful just to borrow them for a time.

AN: Please be aware that this story makes a lot of references to events in the show (and alters some when needed). If you haven't watched the entire series you might get spoiled and/or miss out on some added layers in the story, but you shouldn't be lost. This will be all friendship/romance and no "I can't decide which boy I like" angst. Rating is for future chapters (I know I build things slowly, but trust me, we'll get there - I already have a lot of it written. The fanfics that start right off with "and there goes Rory's virginity!" in the first two seconds irk me, as do the ones that are all about the chase and end when they get together, so I figured I'd try to offer something different).

Beta Update: I have a beta now - Yay! Thanks, Jewels12! We went over this chapter, so it's been updated since its original release. The changes were mainly comma related, some word choices, but no plot modifications.

He looked around the modest double, not really knowing where to begin. Should he make his bed? Should he unpack his clothes? Set up his computer? Noting the unpacked bags scattered around his roommate's half of the room, he figured there was no rush, and instead flopped onto his bare mattress. He laced his fingers behind his head, and after getting bored of staring at the cracks in the ceiling, let his eyes drift closed.

He was exhausted from a whirlwind day, a crazy weekend, and a busy week. It felt like it had been seven straight days of packing and shopping with his parents, but he knew that wasn't true. He and his buddies had gone paintballing one day, and just hung out with pizza and a rental a couple other nights. Saturday night had been their one last hurrah together, though no one had actually called it that. Who wants to openly admit to their friends since first grade that things probably wouldn't be the same again? Sure it sucked, but what were they going to do? Sit around and cry together?

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he exhaled with an over-manly whoosh that puffed out his cheeks and lips. He wished his family could have stuck around a little longer, but they had the long drive back to New Hampshire ahead of them. Well, a three hour drive isn't that long, but when you need to drive down and back in the same day, it can be kind of taxing. It seemed like eons since he had piled into the minivan with his parents and younger brother. They had taken out the back seat to have more room for his stuff, and packed everything yesterday so they could get an early jump on things this morning.

Some time later, he jerked out of his relaxed reverie at the vibration in his pocket. Laughing at himself for not being used to his graduation present yet, he sat up and glanced at the display before answering the phone.

"I figured I'd hear from you first," he said.

"Oh yeah? Why's that?" Ben laughed on the other end of the line.

"Nick's parents have a way shorter drive. There's no way they'd leave earlier than they had to."

"There's no way any of our parents would leave earlier than they had to."

He withheld his disagreement on that point. "Right, so how did your first day go?" he asked instead.

He felt faintly envious as Ben complained about the big deal his mom had made right before leaving. It wasn't that his own parents were cold; it was just that they had gone through this before with his older brother. So it wasn't a momentous occasion ā€“ more like an errand. Ben and Nick were the eldest in their families, so of course their parents would be making a big deal out of it, right? It didn't mean anything that his parents hadn't, even though he was pretty sure they would when it was Eddy's turn to go. First and last, those are the momentous occasions.

"What about you?" Ben concluded.

"Pretty standard, I guess. We left early so we could get here around eight. When we arrived, my roommate had already claimed his bed and desk, so we unloaded my stuff around the rest of the room."

"What's he like?"

"I don't know. We didn't hang around long, so I haven't met him yet. We left to go to the various orientation events they had going on, and I only just got back a little while ago."

"Well, I hope he's cool," Ben said.

"Yeah, me too. You still thinking of pledging?" He hoped he didn't sound desperate to continue the conversation. He just liked the company.

"Yeah. I'll be checking out more of the frats tomorrow, but right now I'm leaning toward SigEp. What about you?"

"Nah, I don't think it's for me. Maybe if the three of us had gone to the same place and we were pledging together, but otherwise, it's just not my scene."

"Yeah, I can see that. Oh, hang on a sec, that's Nick."

He waited while Ben greeted the other musketeer and finagled the conference call feature on his phone.

"What up?!" Nick hollered into his ear.

Laughing at his friend's enthusiasm, he said, "Not much, man. How are you free already?"

"My dad helped me convince my mom there really wasn't any need to drag things out, since I'm not even an hour away. Hey, you guys didn't start without me, did you?"

He groaned while Ben answered for them, "We wouldn't dream of it."

"Do we really have to do this?" he complained. He had hoped they had forgotten.

"Absolutely!" Nick chided.

"But I don't know anybody hereā€¦" he pleaded.

"Neither do we ā€“ that's exactly why we have to do it. We have to mark the beginning of a new era!" Nick shouted dramatically.

"Come on, man," Ben encouraged. "It'll be like we're all doing this together, even though we're not."

Catching Ben's unspoken drift, he sighed and gave in. "All right, let's get this over with."

"That's the spirit," Nick said sarcastically. "Ready?"

"Hold on," he said, while he worked the window open with one hand. "Okay."

He held the phone toward the open window, close enough to his ear so he could hear Nick count them down. "Three, two, ONE!"

"Aoooooooooooo," he howled into the darkened campus, his friends audible only to him. He closed his eyes so he could pretend he was standing on the edge of a quarry with his friends, rather than two stories over students giving him strange looks.

"Anything?" Ben asked.

"Not yet. Again!" ordered Nick.

"Aoooooooooooo," he howled again, laughing in spite of his embarrassment, remembering how they used to howl while cruising around Newport and the rush they would get when people, specifically girls, would howl back.

"What are you doing?" said a bemused voice behind him, causing him to jump out of his skin before he whipped around to see someone standing in the doorway. He hadn't heard the door open due to the howling.

Great first impression, he thought, cringing at himself.

Just as he was about to open his mouth to speak, he heard Nick give another command, so he automatically turned back to the window and howled for the third time. Before he could explain himself to his roommate, he heard a husky female voice howl back.

"Holy crap, someone howled back!" he reported to his friends incredulously.

"Was that a girl?" his roommate asked eagerly, stepping up to join him at the window.

They looked at each other and grinned before turning to face out the window. "Aoooooooooooo," they cried out together.

After a pause, the husky voice howled again, followed by a high-pitched and more timid howl. The boys howled again and were rewarded to hear the two girls call back in unison, before a chorus of other howls echoed around the building.

He realized he hadn't really been paying attention to the commotion on his phone after his roommate walked in. Bringing the phone back to his ear, he heard Nick announce, "Success! Well, guys, college has officially begun."

Laughing, he decided it was time to take his leave. "Listen, my roommate just arrived, so I'll catch you guys later, okay?"

"Yeah, later," Ben said, as Nick continued howling on his end.

Hanging up, he turned to his roommate. "Sorry about that, sort of a tradition with my friends back home."

"No, man, that's cool. Hopefully we'll get to meet those girls later. That first one sounded sexy."

He actually preferred the second girl. She sounded cute, he thought, before his roommate extended his hand.

"Anyways, I'm Carl."

Shaking hands, he said, "Hey, Carl, I'm Marty."

AN: Yes, I know that reveal wasn't that much of a shock since you likely already knew the ship pair before reading. But hopefully it was still fun. Also, in trying to give Marty some background and character depth, I hope I succeeded in showing him as a vulnerable nice guy and not a wuss or a self-pitying whiner. I tend to be subtle about some things and don't spell them out so if you have any questions feel free to ask.