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In a Moment Close to Now

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It’s not like they haven’t talked about it. Lara Jean is actually, like, really proud of the fact that they have talked about it--that they’re being responsible, that they’re communicating, that these days she can talk with Peter about sex without completely burning up and wanting to die.

Still, that doesn’t mean nothing about it is embarrassing. Lara Jean’s dad keeps handing her brown paper bags of condoms like they’re school lunches, and Peter’s mom bought him a now-expired box of Trojans when she made him sit through the teenage sex talk. But Lara Jean feels like if they’re really going to do it, they should at least be able to buy their own first.

“Right?” she says, craning her neck back to look at Peter from where she’s settled on his lap. It’s a Sunday morning in early May, crisp and promising. He’s leaning back against the couch, and his warm arms are around her.

She can feel him shrug against her whole body.

“Whatever floats your boat, Covey,” he says. “Plus, yeah, I guess I don’t really want it to be like our parents, like, facilitated this. That’s weird as hell.”

“Exactly,” Lara Jean says, primly, but inside she feels anything but together. Peter’s acting all chill, too, but she can feel him breathe out against her in a long rush.

“When you wanna go? Now?” Peter asks, then stumbles over himself. “Not, like, do it now, just to the store--we don’t have to, I mean. I just thought, like. In case.”

In case, Lara Jean thinks. In case has been creeping closer and closer, faster and faster, in the past few weeks. In case is the hot expanse of Peter’s skin against hers, the bruise as he pushes against the planes of her stomach, her hip. In case is the press of his fingers over her, into her, the stretch and the way she goes blank and frantic with wanting. In case is Peter’s groan and rueful laugh when she slips against him, the way she has to make herself shift away, wait.

“Let’s decide when,” Lara Jean says, because if they don’t make a plan, in case is going to happen, and it’s going to happen in three seconds on the couch when her dad is taking Kitty to the dentist and then he’ll burst in the door with, like, a bucket of KFC for dinner and ask Peter to stay, and all of their afterglow will happen while Kitty is eating chicken in her face.

“Okay,” Peter says, and he presses a kiss to the top of her head. “When?”

The first time Lara Jean has sex--real sex--she wants it to be special. She doesn’t think that’s too much to ask. It’s not like everything they’ve done so far hasn’t been amazing, but it hasn’t been--romantic. It’s been high school parties and movies and driving around late at night laughing until they can’t breathe, making out in the front seat until they’re both late for curfew.

When Lara Jean imagined having sex, she always imagined something with flower petals and a beautiful gown. And a horseback ride at sunset, but maybe that’s pushing it. Still--

“Prom,” Lara Jean says. It’s in two weeks. That’s not that long to wait. And all their friends already got a hotel suite together--they won’t have to worry about parents and little siblings and stolen time.

“Prom,” Peter says. “Okay, Covey. A classic. I like it.”

It’s a cliche, maybe. But she likes the idea of it: the dress she’s had picked out for months, Peter in a tux, rose petals on the bedspread. A perfect teenaged memory just waiting to be made.

“We can get the condoms now, though,” Lara Jean says, as a joke, but Peter stands up and holds out a hand to help her up too.

“Why not?” he says. “No time like the present.” He’s grinning, but there’s a shy edge to it that Lara Jean can see more and more clearly now that she’s begun to leave her hangups about his past experience behind. Peter hasn’t done this part before, either. She grabs his hand and clambers up.

At the Walgreens, Peter grabs a basket from by the door.

“What?” he says, when Lara Jean looks at him. “Might as well get some snacks while we’re here, LJ.”

They raid the aisle of one dollar store brand gummy candy, filling the basket with packets of neon worms and pink, sugary watermelon. Peter grabs a bag of peach rings and looks both ways before tearing it open right there in the middle of the store.

“I’ll still pay, come on,” he says, and Lara Jean opens her mouth for one. It’s sweet and sticky and when Peter kisses her, she feels the sugar rough against the corners of his mouth. An old woman rounds the corner of the aisle and glares at them until they break apart, trying to look apologetic.

When she’s out of sight again Peter pulls an exaggerated version of her face, bottom lip sticking out in a parody of disapproval. Lara Jean stuffs another peach ring in her mouth to keep from laughing and almost chokes on it when the woman peers back down the aisle and sees him.

“Come on, come on,” she says, still laughing, and grabs Peter’s hand to tug him to the safety of the personal care aisle.

“Imagine her face if she saw us getting these,” Lara Jean says, standing in front of the frankly overwhelming condom selection. Who knew there were so many brands?

“Come on, Covey, she’d probably love that we’re being so responsible,” says Peter, and raises his own eyebrows at the shelves.

“‘Fire and Ice’? Doesn’t sound like something I want on my dick, but sure.”

Lara Jean laughs. “Here,” she says, pulling the most basic-looking box off the shelf and handing it to him. “Does this work?”

“I guess we’ll find out,” Peter says, and it’s a joke but some of the giddy humour has leaked away. It leaves the facts in its wake: them, together, getting ready to do this.

“Yeah,” she says. “I guess we will.”

Peter looks up at her and smiles, slow and easy, and it’s a good thing, it’s a promise. Lara Jean pops another peach ring into her mouth and munches the too-sweetness of it happily. It’s nice to be sure.

When they’re back at her place and they’ve put the condoms away in her underwear drawer, she asks him about what she’s been wondering the whole time, because they can talk about this part too. She’s going to make sure.

“Did you do this with Gen?” she asks, and Peter knows she isn’t asking about sex. He doesn’t love that she needs to talk about this sometimes, maybe, but she thinks that he gets it. He doesn’t make her feel bad about it, at least. He always just answers.

“That box from my mom,” he says, and rolls his eyes. “I told you, it wasn’t--I honestly don’t think I was really ready. It wasn’t like I put a whole lot of thought into it. It wasn’t bad, it just. I think it happened because we thought it was supposed to happen, you know?”

Lara Jean nods.

“Do you think it’s supposed to happen with me?” she asks.

Peter sits down next to her on the bed.

“Not in that way,” he says. “Definitely not. But I guess--in a bigger way, you could say that. That this was supposed to happen.”

There’s a feeling inside her like something is unfurling, too fast and too big for the space that holds it. She bites down at her lip where it’s trying to escape into a completely hopeless smile.

“You saying we were meant to be, Kavinsky?”

Peter shrugs. He’s picking at the seam of her quilt, watching his fingers moving.

“Not, like, in the fate sense,” he says. “Not sure I believe in that. But being with you--it feels right for me, Covey. Like nothing is out of place. You know?”

She knows.

“Hey, LJ?” Peter says after a second. “Can I just--are you sure about Prom? Because if that’s what you want, we totally can. But I was just thinking that it’s going to be so late, and we’ll be tired, and god knows who’s going to get wasted and try to bust into the room, and I just thought--I kind of imagined, like, I’d do something special for you like take you on a picnic and maybe get your sisters to show me how to make Korean food and surprise you and then--I mean, I know, the hotel room. Maybe we should just--but I was picturing, like--”

He stops and rubs a hand over his face.

“God, this is dumb,” he says.

“No, it isn’t,” Lara Jean says, steadily. “You were picturing?”

“A field of wildflowers,” Peter says, in a voice so tiny that at first Lara Jean is convinced she’s heard wrong.

“A field of wildflowers, like, there’s this clearing in the woods at the state park. I just--because you read all that romance stuff. And you’d be so--but it’s stupid.”

The thing unfurling inside her is so big now that Lara Jean can feel it in her fingertips, in her lips.

“It’s not--” Her throat isn’t working right. “It’s not stupid.”

“It is,” Peter says, voice returning to a normal volume, “because it’s totally illegal to have sex in public, and also any rando creeper could see, which is just, I can’t even think about that. It’s just that nothing seems, like, special enough. I keep coming back to freaking wildflowers.”

He gives a little half-frustrated groan and rubs the palms of his hands into his eyes.

He’s right, obviously. It would be illegal and weird and probably not even very comfortable. Lara Jean can picture it, though, in the romance novel version of her life, and it’s perfect.

“Kavinsky,” she says to Peter, and grabs his shoulders so that he turns and faces her.

You’re the part that’s special enough,” she says. “Obviously.”

Maybe it’s inevitable, then, as soon as he leans in and kisses her. Maybe it’s not. It doesn’t really matter: what matters is the faintly peach-flavored skin of Peter’s lips, the familiar way they open under hers. What matters is the small sigh he makes every time she runs her hand up his side under his shirt, like he’s finally worked out a nagging ache.

They’ve made out in her bed so many times now, and there’s nothing that’s particularly different about this time. Peter falls back against the pillows and Lara Jean scrambles to her knees over him, her laptop digging into her shin. She kisses him until his mouth is full of her hair, and then sits up again to tie it back. She likes the way his eyes linger on her while he waits for her to finish; how he gets impatient, finally, and half-sits up to kiss at her neck, his hands coming up under her sweater to find the clasp of her bra.

He used to wait for her to do this part, but now he trusts that she loves it--and she does, so much, goes hot all over at the first fumbling press of his fingers, sighs happily when he finally gets it and her bra slips open and off.

The afternoon sun is streaming in her windows, and Peter rolls them over so that she’s lying in all the pillows, now, and the sun is striped across her chest.

“You too,” she says, and waves in the general direction of his shirt. She loves how Peter makes her feel, and she loves looking at him. He’s gorgeous: lean, tan planes of muscle, an expanse that she’s spent hours trailing her fingers over in endless fascination.

When he leans back down to kiss her again, her nipples are hard against his chest and she presses up into the feeling of it, the solid wall of him making her ache.

“You want?” Peter says, hearing the noise she makes, and Lara Jean bites her lip and nods at him.

He thumbs at one nipple and sucks the other gently into his mouth, and Lara Jean tries not to cry out with the feeling of it. She can feel herself getting slippery-wet, ache growing, and she anchors one hand in Peter’s warm curls and slides the other one down his hip, slipping two fingers under the waistband of his jeans.

“Off,” she says, “come on,” and he groans but pulls away from her to fumble with his fly and kick the jeans down and off. There’s a wet spot on the front of his boxers, and he jerks when Lara Jean presses an exploratory thumb against it. She grins at him, and he rolls his eyes and smiles back.

“You too,” he says, and Lara Jean lifts her hips so Peter can tug her skirt down. He’s left her underwear on. Lara Jean pushes that down, too, watches Peter watching her. He tugs his boxers off, quickly, and then he’s back on the bed, on his side this time. A piece of hair has come undone from her emergency bun, and Peter takes it and tucks it back behind her ear.

When she curls in to kiss him it’s slower, thicker. She can feel the sun against her shoulder blades and butt, and the pulse of Peter’s heart against her chest. One of his hands is crushed under her, but the other comes up to rest on the neutral ground of her hip, blanketing a small part of her. She cradles the sweet curve of his jaw and tilts his mouth back to hers, again and again. She can feel his dick pressing into the top of her thigh, and when she takes his hand from where it’s resting and moves it lower, so that it slips against her wet entrance, he swears under his breath.

Lara Jean presses against him, the whole length of her body against his, and thinks about wildflowers: imagines both of them out in a field, her in her prom dress, him in a tux. And then Peter moves against her, pressing back, and his dick slips against her thigh where his wet fingers have been, so close.

“Hang on,” she says, because they talked about this, and he fed her peach rings at Walgreens, and she can’t imagine wanting this any more in a clearing full of any flower in the entire world. Because when she says “hang on” he freezes and kisses her on the forehead and then pulls back, flopping on the bed and breathing hard.

There’s an annoying plastic packing on the whole box, and she has to gnaw at it to get it off, and by the time she finally strips it and tosses it into the corner Peter’s looking at her, wide-eyed.

“If--if you want to,” Lara Jean says. Crap. Maybe he wanted wildflowers. For him.

“It’s just,” she says, before he can answer, “it doesn’t have to be--now, it just. I don’t need Prom. I don’t even need the most insanely perfect romantic date anyone ever dreamed up, which is what that was, for the record. I was worried that it had to be this perfect memory, but it already is.”

She looks around: her cozy, beloved bedroom. The warm spring sun. The boy.

“Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t give you a chance to answer. If you don’t want to, it’s seriously okay. I know I kind of--changed the plan. We can stop--”

“Covey,” Peter says, and his voice is low and rough and full of delighted laughter. “I’m going to need you to shut up,” and then he’s kissing her and taking the box of condoms out of her hands at the same time, until she falls back onto the bed and drags him with her.

Her hair has escaped the bun entirely by now, and Peter’s fingers are tangled in it. She can feel them trembling, just a little, against her scalp. Lara Jean wraps one ankle around Peter’s, fits them even more tightly together. Peter pulls away from her mouth and tucks his forehead into the juncture of her collar. She can feel him take a deep breath, still shaky.

“Okay, Covey,” he says, “gimme me a sec, here.” When he peels himself away to sit up Lara Jean can barely stop herself from following: any distance between their bodies feels too big. He fumbles at a condom, but his fingers are slippery and still shaking; looking up, he grins at her ruefully.

“I got it,” says Lara Jean, and she does. There’s a moment where they both have to figure out which way is up, but then they have it, and she trails her fingers after his as Peter eases it over himself. A flimsy little piece of latex, basically invisible, but it makes everything that’s coming next new, unprecedented. Lara Jean lies back and isn’t exactly sure how to get to the part that’s coming next. It felt so close three seconds ago, and now it’s an unfamiliar horizon.

Peter notices, though. He takes one hand and laces his fingers through hers, squeezes. She squeezes back.

“Just me and you, Covey, yeah?” he asks, and she nods at him.

“Come here,” she says, and he does.

He’s warm and familiar over her, and he kisses her mouth and her neck and her shoulders, cups a hand around her breast the way she likes, the way that makes something flood hot and heavy inside of her. He’s hard, and when he slides against her she feels the familiar thrill of in case danger, but she can let it ride, now, can watch it turn from fascinated alarm to want, to a promise. She’s aching and slippery, and she always thought that when this finally happened it would feel like crossing a threshold: instead, it’s a continuation, Peter’s fingers moving against her, the hitch in his breath as he finds his way.

It doesn’t hurt, not the way she sometimes thought it might. He pushes in slowly and the stretch is brand new, unsettling and fascinating and then, abruptly, hot: the feeling of it, a little, but mostly the idea, mostly the punched-out noise Peter makes, the way he’s shaking all over now. When he moves against her the parts of it that feel good build; she’s aching again, but she’s not empty, and it’s--it could be--

“I--shit,” Peter says, “LJ--” and he ducks his face against her neck and shudders there for a long time. She cards fingers through his hair and feels the pound of his heart, of her own pulse where he’s still inside her. She’s warm. She loves him.

When he can talk again, the first thing he asks is if she’s okay, face pink and slack with embarrassed pleasure. He seems to realize all of a sudden that he’s still inside her, blushing, and Lara Jean is surprised that when he pulls out carefully it feels like a loss: she wishes it wasn’t over yet.

“I’m very good,” she says. She’s pretty sure she is. She presses fingers against herself, surreptitiously, and when she brings them up there’s no blood or anything, but Peter still notices. His eyebrows draw together.

“Can I?” he asks, and she’s not sure what he means but she nods anyway. He runs a finger over her, lightly, and it makes her shiver. She didn’t realize she’d feel--

And then Peter is moving down the bed, settling between her legs. He’s beet red, but he runs another finger over her, carefully, parts her lips. They feel swollen and new, somehow, and when he kisses her there she has to stifle the way her whole body wants to jerk, electric.

“Looks good to me,” Peter says, and kisses her thigh, pulls away. Lara Jean makes a whining noise before she can stop herself, and Peter huffs a laugh into her stomach.

“Yeah?” he says, and yeah, but maybe he just wants to, like, fall asleep now. Isn’t that what boys do after they have sex?

When she asks him that he laughs again.

“The day I want to pass out instead of doing this is going to be sad, LJ,” he says, and then his mouth is on her again, and she’s back to mostly-familiar territory. They’ve done this a handful of times. They’d have done it more, Lara Jean thinks vaguely, in the part of her brain that isn’t taken over by feeling, if it was less good--Peter likes it so much it almost embarrasses him, and it always makes her want even more. A dangerous, in case kind of more.

They’re in the in case now, though, is the thing. When Peter moans against her, Lara Jean sees the way his hips are moving against the bed, and maybe--she fumbles for the box that’s still on the bed next to her, takes one out and presses it into Peter’s hand, a question. He takes it from her, then lingers, licking at her until she’s so close she has to kick at him to get him to stop. She doesn’t want to, yet. Not until--she thinks maybe she could, if he--

When he presses back inside her it feels different, more: she’s more sore than she realized, for one thing, but she’s also so close. She wants to--yell. She doesn’t, though, just digs her fingers into Peter’s biceps until he stops and looks at her, worried.

“It’s good,” Lara Jean says, because it hurts more than last time but it’s also more, and it’s better, and when Peter tries, fumblingly, to rub at her clit, Lara Jean wraps her hand around his and nudges, until he finds it. She holds him there, moves her hips into his finger and he moves inside her and when she comes, hard, it’s to his disbelieving laugh. Holy shit, Covey.

It doesn’t take him long at all after that, and she likes it just as much the second time: his noises, the way he folds himself into her like she’s a sanctuary. He stays there for a long time, breathing hard, and then he’s too heavy, eventually, and she has to push him off and curl against him, her back to his front.

“Just think,” she says, as he pulls the blanket up over both of them, “we could be covered in grass stains right now.”

“Or after-prom vomit,” Peter says.

Still, Lara Jean knows that when she looks back on this--her first time, even if it was just another step, after all, from all the other first times--she’ll remember wildflowers. She can smell them, as she falls asleep: blossoming all around her, generous and bountiful and lovely.