Chapter 1: Hot Tub
Not bringing a bathing suit was a really stupid idea. Lara Jean wishes she could say that it had been some kind of statement -- Contractually obligated trip, all work and no play -- but really she just forgot that ski lodges come with hot tubs. She doesn’t ski, okay? She doesn’t even know how. It’s not intuitive that there would be outdoor water-based activities in a place that literally owes its existence to the weather remaining solidly below freezing.
But now, somehow, impossibly, she’s in the water, sweating and shivering at the same time, the heat of the steam and the chill of the air and -- and Peter, his legs under hers, his hands on her back. The other thing she didn’t know, the other thing that should have been intuitive. His hands, where her stupid nightgown is clinging to her, dripping and freezing and so definitively not a bathing suit.
“What?” Peter asks her again. His hands linger on her waist. She can feel the heat of his thumb against her bottom rib, hotter than the throbbing warmth of the water around them. He cocks an eyebrow, that mix of openness and tease, and she breaks.
“I feel ridiculous,” Lara Jean says, and tugs one sodden strap up from where it’s threatening to ease off her shoulder. Peter’s eyes follow her hand.
“Just wish I’d brought a bathing suit, okay? I wasn’t exactly prepared for -- this.”
The last word lingers.
“You cold, Covey?” Peter asks. His hands come up, shedding warm water, to spread out across her exposed upper back, her shoulders. His arms press against hers.
There’s a space, right between his shoulder and his neck, where her forehead would fit. It looks warm.
“No,” she says. “Just kind of dumb. In retrospect, you know, I would love to be wearing my cutest bikini in this situation and not, like, my literal nightgown.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Peter asks. He leans in, damp curls streaking against her forehead. When he speaks, his lips brush her ear.
“You literally could not look hotter right now,” Peter says, a quiet edge to his voice, and his hands move back down to her sides, to where the thin cotton is sticky and clinging. She looks at where he’s touching her, then up to see his eyes, the gentle question there.
“Disagree, but go on,” Lara Jean says, reckless. She feels a drop of sweat drip down the back of her neck and linger, chilled, between her shoulder blades.
“No, no, Covey,” Peter says, lips against her neck now. He pauses, kisses her once, then again when she shivers in the steam.
“You gotta trust me here,” Peter says. “No bathing suit could be as sexy as the image -- which will stay with me for the rest of my life, by the way, thanks for that -- of you just walking into this hot tub like this, and I mean --”
He pauses and looks at her again, and this time she sees his eyes linger on her chest, the way the fabric there is clinging to her breasts, almost see-through. For a second it’s like she can see herself through her eyes, and okay. Maybe he has a point. She can feel a rush move through her at the thought, and she’s aware, suddenly, of how much her skirt is riding up, under the water, clogging and matted around her thighs.
She doesn’t know what to say so she kisses Peter instead, once and then again, harder, and feels the way his hands tighten all at once around her. Around them, the air smells like snow and pine. Peter’s body is smooth and impossible against hers and Lara Jean edges forward, losing herself. She follows the trail of his jaw to his ear, his neck, and when she kisses there he bites back a sound, fingers curling in the wet cotton of her dress.
It’s hard to tell where she’s hot from the water and the steam and where she’s hot from the way Peter’s soft noises burn through her, from the shift of his muscles against her skin. If she pressed forward even just a tiny bit more she thinks she could feel him, maybe, his dick, and the thought is terrifying and thrilling. An hour ago she thought she’d lost him to Gen forever and now she’s here, somehow, and if she wanted to -- she thinks, knows, that he would.
It’s that thought that nudges her awake from the trance of Peter’s lips and hands and skin -- the sudden knowledge that she could. It’s hers to decide. Her mind flashes, briefly, to the paper bag sitting in her hotel room, the memory of rolling her eyes at her dad as she grabbed the condoms from him.
“What’s up, Lara Jean?” Peter asks, and when she looks at him there’s that flicker of unsure in his eyes, the one that was painted there when she first got to the hot tub tonight. She wants, suddenly and fiercely, to erase it.
“We should probably stop,” she says, because she can’t feel this way about him right now. The wanting, sure, yes. Naturally. The gut-punch of protectiveness? Not part of the contract, anywhere, ever. She looks down, at the water where it’s roiling and bubbling around them.
“Yeah, Covey, it’s super late,” Peter says. “Plus, you’re covered in goosebumps, did you realize?”
Lara Jean shrugs, and then Peter’s tilting his head down so that his eyes are level with hers.
“Hey,” he says, voice careful. “You okay?”
No, Lara Jean thinks. But his face is right there, smudged with that infuriating, golden warmth, even when he’s confused, and she can’t -- it would be true, but it would also be a lie.
“Yeah,” she says, instead, and tries not to feel the way his smile spreads through her.
“Good,” Peter says. “Now, come on.”
She lets him pull her up and out of the tub. In the freezing air, her nightgown transforms back into clumps of heavy wet fabric, and she shivers. She’ll have to walk through the whole lobby to get back to her room, dripping, and --
And then there’s warmth at her back, and around her. Peter’s wrapped a towel around her, pressing her to him and rubbing like her dad used to do when she was tiny and she got out of the bath.
“Seriously, Covey, a nightgown?” he asks, mock-stern, and she can’t see him through the fuzz of the towel.
“Of all the ridiculous things,” he says, and she shoves at him, warming.
“You loved it,” she says, finally, when her head emerges. He’s right there, gone still. Looking right at her.
“Don’t know where you got that idea,” he says, but his eyes are quiet. They don’t look away from hers, not even when she reaches up and kisses him, gives in to the spreading thaw.
Chapter 2: Parking Lot
They walk off the lacrosse field together arm in arm, and Lara Jean feels all spun-out and fragile, like if she speaks maybe everything about this infinitely perfect moment will burst. She can barely bring herself to look at Peter, in case he’s -- not there, or something. It sounds crazy, she knows.
It’s just that if she’d crafted this daydream, this is exactly how it would go. The warmth of Peter’s slow smile, the way it felt against her lips. Hearing him say he’s in love with her, only her.
The memory of it makes her look up at Peter, finally. He’s already looking at her, soft smile on his face.
And then he bursts out laughing.
“What?” she asks, stung. The bubble of the last ten minutes wavers around her, flimsy and fragile.
Peter points, over her shoulder. Lara Jean turns to look, and, okay. She didn’t exactly do the world’s best parking job.
“Impressive, Covey,” Peter says, still grinning. “I think if there was an award for all-time-worst parking job in the history of this parking lot, you could win. Which is saying a lot, since mostly teenagers park here.”
“Shut up,” she says to him, mouth twitching into a smile despite herself. Still, there’s a tiny voice inside her asking if this is really what he’s focusing on right now. If she’s the only one who felt how big this moment was.
“Couldn’t wait to talk to me, huh?” Peter asks, but his voice goes soft halfway through. He’s still right there, in front of her, and he reaches out and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. The brush of his fingers makes her shiver; fragile, again, but in a different way.
“Guess not,” Lara Jean says, and as he leans in to kiss her she thinks about the way when she told him she drove over here -- when she pretended it was all she had come to say to him -- his face fell just a little. How even though she could see that, he was still proud of her. Genuinely proud, happy for her even through all the weirdness and anger still lingering between them, and -- okay, she wouldn’t have put any of that in a daydream. She wouldn’t have thought to make it that real.
All of it is real, suddenly, a bursting: she can feel all of it all at once, the sun-hot metal of her car behind her as Peter backs her up against it, his hands still cradling her face. The slow slide of his lips against hers, the way his teeth catch against her bottom lip. She doesn’t know what to do with her hands, just presses them, palms flat, against the solid bulk of the car, braces herself there as Peter kisses her again and again.
It’s so good, the tangle of his fingers in her hair and the careful way his hips nudge hers. One of his thighs slots into the space between her legs and she’s pinned, fluttering. When he moves again her skirt hitches up, too short for this, and she tugs at it half-heartedly. Peter’s hand follows hers, and the feeling of his knuckles against her bare thigh makes a new heat flood through her.
“Say it again,” she says suddenly, pulling away. When they’re this close together she has to crane her head back to look him in the eye.
“What, that you’re the world’s worst parker?” Peter asks. It comes out rough, like he’s out of breath. Lara Jean can feel him again her, the rise and fall of his chest.
Lara Jean shakes her head.
“Or that I’m in love with you?” Peter says. When he says it, his whole face breaks into one of those smiles that’s too big for it, the kind that makes his eyes crinkle up so that it can fit.
“I’m in love with you, Lara Jean. Bad parking included. Actually, it’s kind of part of the whole why-I-love-you deal.”
“Just checking,” Lara Jean says, before she can say something even stupider about how warm he is, like another sun, so close to her it’s terrifying.
When he just looks at her she says, “Kiss me,” stupid and frantic, because she’ll say all of that stuff if he doesn’t. It’s just -- true.
“You’re crazy, Covey,” Peter says, laughing, but he’s kissing her at the same time, so that she feels the heat of that laugh against her skin. And maybe he’s right, maybe she is crazy, because it makes her feel like that. Crazy. Crazy like she wants to climb up him, right there in the parking lot, wants his hand to keep going where it’s on her thigh, higher and higher until he has all of her. When she presses towards him, barely thinking, she can feel that he’s hard, and she feels a fierce strange rush of pride.
Peter’s thumb is rubbing circles against her, over and over, right below the line of her underwear. If he was an inch higher he’d feel the elastic. She wishes -- she wishes he knew what she knows, that he could feel what he’s doing to her the same way she can feel him. He kisses her mouth, the corner of her lips, her jaw. His mouth under her ear, on her neck, makes her shake and try for more, edging to her tip-toes, arching back for him. She trembles with the strain of it and Peter grasps at her, steadying, but he overbalances and then they’re both stumbling against the car.
The blare of the alarm should shock her out of this, Lara Jean thinks vaguely, but it isn’t working. The car is pulsing and shrieking and all she cares about is the way Peter’s hand has slipped further up her thigh, the way his other hand is playing with the space where her sweater’s riding up above her skirt. His mouth finds hers again and she wants him so much. She didn’t know -- there are no flowers, no windswept cliffs or gallant horseback rides. Just a mid sized family car slashed across the parking lot and a chorus of siren wails and Peter’s hands on her.
“Covey,” Peter’s saying into her ear. “We gotta -- we gotta.”
Lara Jean shakes her head and reaches up for him again, for more, his dark messy curls and that way he looks at her.
“You’re killing me, Lara Jean,” Peter says, low and half-swallowed, and he looks down at his hands, where they are on her. When he starts to slide his fingers out from under her skirt she grabs his wrist, holds him there.
“We’re in a parking lot,” Peter says, like he’s waking up. “At school. Lara Jean --”
He sounds like he’s pleading with her.
She could hold him here, she realizes. It would be easy, to make him melt back into her, as sweet as a daydream.
“Fine,” she says, pulling away, smoothing her skirt back down with a hand that barely shakes. “You’re driving me home, though.”
“No shit, Covey,” Peter says, but he doesn’t cut a glance at the car like she expects him to, doesn’t roll his eyes. He takes a deep breath, instead, runs a hand through his frantic curls. His shoulders rise and fall once, settling, and then he looks at her again. Smiles, shaky and wide and real.
Chapter 3: Bedroom
Lara Jean sits down on the edge of her bed and watches Peter take in her room, the shelves of books and the bulletin board of sentimental stuff she’s kept for years and the super-messy desk, and thinks that she doesn’t know what comes next. It shouldn’t feel awkward like this, right? They’re dating now, one hundred percent officially. Peter’s her boyfriend. Kissing him in her bedroom while they’re home alone should be, like, automatic.
For some reason, though, she’s paralyzed. In the car, on the way here, it was easy - -they laughed like they always do, but with a new giddy edge to it, the promise of more stretching out along the road ahead of them. And then Peter pulled into her driveway and turned off the engine and everything got quiet.
“So, yeah, this is my room,” Lara Jean says now, out of desperation, and immediately wants to bury her face in a pillow. Obviously it’s her room. What did he think it was, the bathroom?
When Peter turns to look at her, though, he’s not rolling his eyes. He’s not smiling either, none of that quick brightness that always flickers across his features. He looks thoughtful, instead, quiet.
“It fits you,” he says, like he’s deciding something. “It’s a good room.”
“Yeah?” Lara Jean asks. She doesn’t know why him saying that should make something warm bloom inside her stomach. She bites at her bottom lip, to distract herself.
“Yeah,” Peter says, and then he’s standing at the foot of the bed, right in front of her. If she reached out, she could touch him.
Neither of them says anything for a long moment, then another, longer moment. Peter’s eyes move, like he’s looking at her carefully, taking in all the parts of her. Maybe he’s realizing that he made a mistake, Lara Jean thinks. Just because this room fits her doesn’t mean he likes it, or her. Maybe it fits her because she’s a mess and doesn’t know what she’s doing, and he sees that now, and --
“Switch with me for a second,” Peter says, suddenly, and reaches out a hand. She takes it, his palm big and warm in hers, and then he’s levering her up and off the bed. He sits down right where she was just a second ago, and she turns to look at him, opening her mouth to ask why.
“That’s better,” he says before she can get the question out. She’s standing close to him, so close she’d bump his knees with her hips if she moved another inch. His face is right in front of hers.
“I was trying to figure out how to kiss you, but the height difference wasn’t ideal,” he says, and -- oh.
“I mean, if you want,” he says hurriedly, then sighs and rubs a hand across his face.
“Sorry, I totally made it awkward, didn’t I? I should have just gone for it -- unless you didn’t want that either, I mean, we don’t even need to kiss, totally up to --”
“-- you,” he finishes, or Lara Jean thinks that’s what he’s saying, but she’s kissing him and it’s sort of hard to tell. She can feel his lips moving against hers, clumsy with surprise and then softer, more deliberate. She steps forward, into the space between his long legs, and his hands settle at her waist.
“I want,” she says, needlessly, because it’s obvious she wants to be kissing him, but it makes Peter’s hands tighten on her anyway. He kisses her again and again, soft lips and rough skin around them, and when he pulls away to take a breath Lara Jean feels raw and scraped and sensitive.
He must shave, she thinks, which seems crazy grown-up. But she shaves too, of course. She thinks about just a few hours ago, carefully running the razor up her legs in the shower before she went out to give him her letter.
There’s another silence opening up between them now, so Lara Jean leans back into before it can grow into discomfort. She bypasses Peter’s lips this time, kisses the skin along his jaw to test her theory and feels the slight prickle there. When she reaches the softer space below his ear his hands tighten again, so she lingers, exploring. Peter makes a soft noise like he’s breathing in too quickly, and then another, and then she dips down to kiss his neck and he lets all his breath out at once, like she punched him.
He likes this, she thinks, he’s not just doing it because he thinks he’s supposed to, and the thought makes her want to get closer to him, as close as possible. She moves her hands from where they’ve been resting on his thighs, so that she’s mirroring the way he’s holding her -- wrapped around his waist, proportions all wrong, so that she can only hold a tiny bit of him, skin hot and muscled through the fabric of his shirt.
When she kisses his neck again his head tips back, and she’s not at the right angle to see it, but she can imagine it -- the long line of his throat in the sunlight, the messy fall of his curls. One day, she thinks to herself, nonsensically.
She kisses him there again, lingers, and when his hands clutch her this time they slip up, catching at the hem of her sweater. This is where they’d left off in the parking lot, she thinks, and tries to move so that they’ll slip some more, a weird awkward shimmy.
Peter straightens up and opens his eyes. He’s flushed and when he speaks, his voice sounds like he’s been running somewhere.
“You okay, Covey?” His hands drop from where they’re nudging against her ribs and she shakes her head with mute disappointment.
“No?” Peter says, worried now. He rubs his hands against the bedspread.
“No,” Lara Jean says, frustrated. How can she just -- it feels too stupid to say out loud, to ask for.
She remembers the way Peter reached for her hand, helped her up, moved them both into the place where they wanted to be.
“Gimme,” she says, awkward and abrupt, and reaches out her hand. Peter takes it, raising an eyebrow. She holds it in both hands, just for a second, looking at his wide palm and long fingers and wanting, absurdly, to kiss it, and then she forces herself back into action, taking his wrist and guiding him up and under her sweater, to the edge of her bra.
His eyes are wide and bright.
“God, Covey,” he says, and she nods fiercely at him until he gets the hint and slides his other hand up. He’s warm and a little wet against her skin, like he’s been sweating, and when she leans back in to kiss him he cups her boobs through her bra, so that they lift a little in his hands as she moves forward.
His lips open under hers and his hands press into her, almost too much. Still, though, there’s a hot heavy weight building at the base of her stomach, and when she moves into him again she can feel her underwear sliding wet against her.
“You feel really good,” Peter says, burying his face against her hair, speaking right into her ear. He squeezes her again, and it does hurt this time, less of a good ache and more of a sharp pain.
“Is that good?” Peter asks, and Lara Jean doesn’t know what to say. It is good -- all of this is good, it’s what she wanted, it’s turning her on. Specifically, though, maybe the way he’s grabbing her now is less good, but it’s better than not having it, and she doesn’t want him to stop, and --
“Covey,” Peter says again, drawing back to look at her. “We don’t have to --”
He moves his hands, starts to take them out from where they’re buried under her sweater.
“It’s good,” Lara Jean says, quickly, biting her lip. She wants them back, wants the way it felt when he cupped her for the first time, surprising and swollen.
“What’s good?” Peter asks, but his hands are back on her now, and Lara Jean sighs into the feeling, leans her face into his neck and kisses him there, open-mouthed.
“That,” she says, and when he rubs a thumb over her nipple through the fabric of her bra she sighs and says, “that.”
He squeezes a little, and it’s good, and she nods, and then he’s grabbing her harder and she says “ow,” small and quiet and buried in the crook of his neck.
His hands gentle, then, but they don’t disappear. He kisses her hair right over her ear, moves both thumbs, and she says, “yeah, like that.”
“You can tell me what you want, Lara Jean,” Peter says, and she thinks suddenly of everything she wants, a whole list -- she wants to climb into his lap, reach both hands down to the hem of her sweater and pull it over her head in one practiced, sexy movement. Wants to make him smile that flash-of-sunshine smile, all the time. Wants him to fumble with the clasp of her bra until it opens to him, wants to look at his face when he sees her topless for the first time. Wants to feel his hands against her skin. His mouth. She wants to kiss him any time she wants to.
“Okay,” she says, instead, and then, “yeah, like that,” when he kisses her neck and touches her slowly, making her feel heavy and tender.
“Like that,” Lara Jean says again, and then again. It's easier every time.
“Never have I ever had oral sex,” Taylor says, half-shy and half-haughty, and holds up eight fingers to the group sitting around her. There’s laugher, and a few oohs, and Lara Jean tries not to notice who’s drinking and putting fingers down and who isn’t. She’s not even playing this game, anyway, she’s just passing through the living room on the way to get a drink, surrounded by the hot loud press of teenage bodies.
She wishes, now, that she’d found another route to the kitchen, because despite herself she glances at Gen, and she’s displaying five fingers on one hand and swigging a drink with the other.
Whatever. Lara Jean grabs a solo cup, contemplates the tap water, then abandons it for a can of beer. It’s icy in her hands, and she can feel the race of her pulse in her palms.
“There you are, wow,” says Chris, coming up behind her. “I’ve been looking everywhere. This place is a mess.”
It’s the first Friday of spring break, and somehow the whole senior class has ended up at the same party. There’s something almost nice about it, how the happiness of vacation and the balm of alcohol level everything out until most social divisions are elided and that girl from the marching band is warmly complimenting Lara Jean on her scrunchie in the bathroom -- everyone is friends, suddenly, and happy.
Lara Jean shakes her head, tries to let go of lingering thoughts about Gen. She grabs Chris’s hand instead, pulls her through the crowds.
“Are they playing Never Have I Ever?” Chris asks, looking over her shoulder at the group gathered on the floor. “Wow, this is a fantastic chance to gather some dirt, we should listen --”
“Or not,” says Lara Jean, and the tone of her voice must tell Chris something, because she sits down on the couch and tugs Lara Jean down next to her.
“Gen?” she asks, and Lara Jean shrugs.
“I feel dumb even caring,” she says, because it’s true. It’s not like she’s insecure in her relationship with Peter. She knows -- really believes, now -- how much he loves her, how loyal he is. It’s just that, well. Sometimes she wonders if the things he loves about her is the same things he liked about Gen.
She takes a long drink of beer, then puts the can down on the floor next to her feet and looks at Chris.
“It’s just,” she says, then gathers her courage. “It’s just, do you think it’s weird that he hasn’t tried to, like, go farther with me?”
It’s crossed her mind a few times before, is the thing. That Peter’s always the one who pulls back when their makeout sessions get too heated, who tugs her shirt back down or looks at his watch and mentions something about getting home for dinner just as she’s working up the courage to slide her thigh a little further in between his legs.
It’s not that he’s not interested, either. Almost two months now, and she notices things: the way his breathing gets shaky when his hands slip up under her shirt, the hard line of him in his loose basketball shorts. There have been times when it felt like everything could just -- tip over, into something more, like she could pull him towards her and take them both hurtling off a precipice.
It’s just that before she can work up the courage, he steps back. Breathes out. Rubs a rough hand across his face, through his already-mussed curls. And then she loses her courage, and it’s too late.
Chris is looking at her thoughtfully, the roar of the party blanketing them in a small cocoon of privacy.
“You really want to?” she asks, and Lara Jean thinks of Peter’s open, easy smile, of the shiver she gets when he walks towards her in the hallway between classes, tall and handsome and hers. She nods.
“Go for it, then,” Chris says. “He’s just trying not to pressure you, you know? He’s a good guy. Don’t overthink it.”
“Yes,” Lara Jean says, “You’re right,” and takes another drink, sets the can down firmly. Peter’s in the basement playing beer pong, she thinks, and she kisses Chris on the cheek and goes to find him.
Down crowded stairs, towards the laughter of boys, and then he looks up and his eyes catch hers. He grins, a bright shining thing in the dank basement darkness, and her stomach flips the same way it does every time.
“What’s up, Lara Jean?” Peter asks, abandoning the game for her, and she stands on her tip-toes to kiss him. His mouth is warm and tastes faintly of beer, and she feels like this is what high school is for.
“Come with me?” she asks, and squeezes his hand, and Peter glances once at the table and then back to her.
“At your service, Covey,” he says, and lets her tug him up the stairs, one flight and then another.
There’s a guest room on the third floor, and Lara Jean tries the door, peeks in -- empty. She pulls Peter in and closes the door behind them, and he grins at her again, raises one eyebrow in lazy delight, and then they’re kissing. It’s good, the buzz of the beer and his mouth opening under hers, the warm skin of his back beneath his t-shirt.
“Come here,” Lara Jean says, and tugs him again, until they’re up against the bed and tipping over onto it. Peter falls first, spread out on the coverlet, all long lines and dark curls, and Lara Jean scrambles up over him. She likes it like this -- feeling the planes of his body beneath her thighs, the way the black curtain of her hair brushes over his face until he reaches up and smoothes it away, lets his hands linger where they tuck it back behind her ears.
It’s easy to get swept away in it. Downstairs, the thrum of the party is like a drumbeat, a wild urging. Peter’s muscles shift beneath her and she grinds down, feels a swooping nervous thrill at the hard line of his dick. He kisses her neck and runs his hands down her body, thumbing at the waist of her skirt, and she sighs into it, moves in a slow wave.
She loves this, Lara Jean thinks, loves him, and when she sits up and pulls her turtleneck over her head she’s rewarded by Peter’s wide eyes, the overwhelmed thump of his head back against the bed.
“You’re gonna kill me, Covey,” Peter says, and slides one hand up her side, playing over her ribs. Slips one thumb up beneath the underwire of her bra. Lara Jean presses her chin into her chest and watches his hands against her skin, grabs his wrists and urges him on.
“Feels good,” she says, grinding down again, and Peter groans and closes his eyes. She’s wearing knee-high socks, not tights, and there’s only the thin cotton of her underwear between her and where Peter’s hard in his jeans. She feels a deep ache at the thought, and she knows again that she wants him, wants this.
When she reaches back for the clasp of her bra, Peter’s right hand tightens where it’s still on her waist. She leans down and kisses him again, to show him that she’s sure, and then she sits back up and lets it come undone, fall forward off of her shoulders.
“Holy shit,” Peter says, quiet, and there’s a silence that opens up in the wake of his words. The party feels very far away, suddenly. His hands reach for her, and they’re warm and gentle and wondering. In contrast, Lara Jean feels the air cold against her skin, and she’s relieved when Peter sits up so that she’s crouched in his lap instead of above him, sheltered by the broad blanket of his chest.
“Covey,” Peter says, a half-groan, and he kisses her neck, her collarbones, and he’s so tall that Lara Jean has to rise up to her knees so that his mouth can find the soft skin at the top of her breasts, soft wondering kisses that leave cool wetness in their wake.
His dark head of curls is right there, in front of her, and Lara Jean wraps one hand in its messiness, holds him against her, and then he looks up at her and her fingers tighten as she leans down to kiss him. It’s so good. Overwhelming. His hand finds her thigh where her skirt’s ridden up, and his tongue is in her mouth, and she wants to make him feel as good as she feels right now, wants to know this much of him, too.
When she reaches for the button of his jeans the feeling of being on the edge of something comes back, but this time she pushes through it, tries to take them over. The material is stiff and fumbling in her fingers, and she wanted to do this seamlessly, so that neither of them had to think too hard about it, but she can’t get the button undone before Peter’s pausing and pulling back.
“Whoa, Covey,” he says, like he’s trying to be lighthearted about it, but it comes out soft and serious. “You sure? Here?”
“What, me and not you?” Lara Jean asks, more defensive than she meant to sound, and Peter quiets, his eyes falling back to her chest like he can’t help himself.
“Right, yeah,” he says, and then he’s undoing his jeans himself, and Lara Jean leans back in to kiss him, reaches for him and waits to feel the same sureness she’d had just minutes ago. When she touches him, he lets out a sharp, punched noise. He’s hot and hard in her fist and she knows she wants this, she does, wants him, but the bubble she’s been floating in since she closed the door behind them has popped somehow. The noise from the party is an intrusion, now, and she hears someone stumble down the hallway outside the room, a loud giggle and a thump.
She feels frozen -- touching him is a revelation, his skin soft and hard underneath, the surprising beat of a pulse beneath her fingers. And yet she can’t move, can’t make herself take this farther. It occurs to her in a flash that she’s not even sure what’s supposed to happen now -- what will it look like, if she makes him come? What about the mess? And if she does it wrong, if he doesn’t like it --
“Lara Jean,” Peter says, confused. She can feel his heart pounding against her own chest, the fast drag of his breath.
“I’m sorry,” she says, letting go. She scrambles back but there’s nowhere to go except up and off the bed, and it hits her that she’s half-naked, her shirt too far away to grab. She crosses her arms in front of her chest instead, and it’s not enough.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’ll just -- I’ll go,” and darts around Peter to grab for her shirt, struggle into it. There’s a moment when she’s enveloped in the soft dark blindfold of her turtleneck, like being underwater, and then she emerges and Peter’s still there, cross-legged on the bed, looking at her.
“Whoa, hey,” he says. “Sit.” She does, but there’s something lumpy underneath her, and when she tugs at it her bra emerges, crumpled in her hand. Lara Jean looks at it for a long moment and then chokes out a laugh.
“Did I do something wrong?” Peter asks, and all his usual cockiness and ease is missing. He sounds -- scared, she thinks.
“No,” she says, and can’t look up from the sight of her bra, forlorn in her hand.
“I want to do this stuff with you,” she tries again. “I just -- I don’t know what happened, okay?”
“I want to do this stuff with you too, Covey,” Peter says. He’s quiet. “I mean, but -- are you sure?”
“Are you sure?” she asks, and she can feel herself getting red with embarrassment. There’s a long silence. When she looks at Peter, finally, he’s looking down at the floor.
“You never tried to before, that’s all,” she says, finally. “And I know you -- I know you’ve done more before. Right?”
“Some, yeah,” Peter says, “but -- LJ, I --” he pauses, takes a deep breath. Looks her in the eye. There’s red creeping up from under his collar, and his jeans are still halfway undone. She can see the red beginnings of a hickey on his jaw and wants to blush all over again.
“I always want to do more stuff with you, LJ,” he says. “Always, always. Okay? To a degree that drives me crazy. But I want it to be right. I don’t want -- I don’t want to lose track of what you want, and sometimes it feels like it would be scary easy to just. Forget about anything except how good this all feels.”
“I want more stuff too, though,” Lara Jean says. “Don’t -- don’t assume I don’t.”
Peter takes the bra out of her hands, then looks at her and offers a tiny smile. Lara Jean smiles back at him, just a little, and then they’re both laughing and he’s kissing her through it, smiling against her lips.
“Maybe just not in this random guest room,” she says, finally, and he laughs again.
“I don’t even think the door locks,” he says, and Lara Jean buries her face in her hands.
“God,” she says, muffled. “And I was just going to forget my bra, too.”
When she looks up Peter’s serious again. He looks at her so gently, sometimes, that she wonders who it is he’s seeing -- if it can really be her that merits that slow, soft gaze.
“That was,” he says, and takes a deep breath. “You’re incredible, Lara Jean Covey. That’s all.”
“Yeah,” Lara Jean says, and even as she fumbles her bra back on under her shirt she’s remembering the look on his face when she took it off, the goodness of that moment. Everything is twisted together and complicated, what she wants and what she’s ready to have, and at the heart of it is Peter and the deep-rooted, crazy way she feels about him.
“I know I am,” she says, and leads him out of the room and back down into the party’s beating heart.
Very, very minor warning for extremely brief and non-malicious dub-con in this chapter.
Chapter 5: Couch
I did promise this story would be rated E eventually; here we go!
A few weeks later, Lara Jean feels Peter’s hand press against hers as he passes her in the hallway between second and third period. She whirls to look at him but he’s gone, a tall receding blur, and when she uncrumples the slightly-sweaty scrap of paper he’s pressed into her palm it says,
My place after school?
P.S. That skirt is hot
That’s all, but it’s enough to make Lara Jean blush. She turns to lean against a convenient bank of lockers, face-first, so that the cool metal presses against her hot forehead.
She knows how Peter feels about her miniskirts. He’s always finding ways to remind her--slipping a hand down to tease at the edge of the hem when they hug, or letting his thumb brush against the upper part of her thigh when she’s next to him in his car. She knows how he feels, and she knew it when she put the skirt on this morning--thought about the way his eyes would widen just slightly, how he’d turn to follow her when she walked past him in the hall and pretended not to be looking back.
She knew it, and it worked. Lara Jean smiles into the blank wall of lockers, and gathers herself and walks to class.
She’s still thinking about it when she parks messily at Peter’s house after school. He’s been working with her on her driving, and it’s getting better, but they’d probably make more progress if being alone in a car with him weren’t so distracting all the time. Sometimes it’s crazy, the way she wants him more now than she did at the beginning of their relationship; now that she knows what his lips feel like against her neck, now that she’s had his hands on her.
His mom and brother are out at some kind of soccer banquet, so they sit on the big couch in his den and put a movie on. It’s something with some guy who used to be on the Disney Channel, and the plot is that he turns into a elf, Lara Jean thinks. Maybe. They don’t exactly watch much of it.
They’ve done this so many times but it never gets old: the way she still gets nervous and excited as the opening credits roll, wondering if he’ll put his arm around her, if he’ll lean down to kiss her. It doesn’t matter that he always does--she stills wants it just as much every time, still can’t think about anything else. When he slides a hand up her shirt she shivers, pressing closer to him, and when she kisses his jaw, his neck, behind his ear, he tugs her closer.
That’s usually where things stay--the two of them pressed so closely together it’s hard to tell where he ends and she begins. Her lips red from kissing the next day, swollen and raw, and Peter sweaty and breathing hard by the time the movie ends. Sometimes she works up the courage to reach a hand down and feel the hard line of him through his pants, and he moves against her and makes a low noise into her neck.
“God, Lara Jean,” Peter’s saying, and she can feel the warm huff of his breath.
She can feel him, and she’s overwhelmed with it: something big and terrifying and irreversible, right around the corner. On the TV, music plays; a shopping sequence, and dancing. What are they watching, anyway?
“You’re so hot,” he says, jerking his hips a little bit like he can’t help himself, and Lara Jean’s arm is pressed in a weird position but she keeps her hand where it is, feels him flex against her. She thinks, suddenly, about the note earlier today--that maybe he’s been thinking about this all day, too. That maybe she’s not the only one who feels out of control.
They’ve gotten this far, or past it, before, but she’s always--she freezes, is the thing. She doesn’t like to feel out of control, or to not know what’s going to happen next. It’s confusing, to want something so badly and to be afraid of finding out what’s on the other side of that want. Lara Jean closes her fingers around Peter through the thick material of his jeans and wishes she knew.
And then Peter pulls back to kiss her on the forehead and blinks, eyes big and wide in the dark room. He breathes out shakily.
“Hey, you,” he says, and starts to pull away, and she can see it--he’s getting himself under control, the way he always does, because he is never going to push her into this, not ever. He’s the safest person she knows: the scariest and the safest all at once, and she loves him. It’s completely crazy.
“You good?” he asks, making more space between their bodies, and Lara Jean buries her face in his chest and says, into his t-shirt, “What’s it like?”
“What’s what like?” Peter asks. His hand comes up to comb through her hair, smoothing it down.
“When you come,” Lara Jean says, bravely. She can feel how bright red her face must be. “I don’t--that’s why I always stop. Because I’m not sure what’s supposed to--how to do it. I like to know things.”
She steels herself and looks up at him, and he’s not laughing at her. Not at all. Instead his face is soft, and his eyes are so warm.
“It’s, um,” he says, like he’s trying to figure out where they’re going. “It’s good. I mean, it’s--you must also--”
“Yeah,” Lara Jean says, quickly, because she does, but that’s not what she means. “I guess I just mean, like. Technically obviously I know, like, I know what happens. My father is a doctor. But I’ve never seen--sorry, this is weird. I’m being weird.”
“Hey,” Peter says, seriously. He kisses her, slowly, and when he pulls away she moves forward helplessly, not wanting to lose him.
“It’s not weird,” he says. “Or, sure, maybe, but it’s good-weird. You’re good-weird, Lara Jean. You’re my favorite weirdo.”
He’s quiet for a second, and Lara Jean leans against his chest and breathes him. When he speaks his whole body rumbles against her.
“If you want, I could--I could show you,” he says, so softly. “Only if you want. Only if--if you’re really curious.”
And that’s--oh. She didn’t think, but now she’s thinking about it, and--
“Yes,” she says, nodding against him for emphasis, and because it’s hard to make herself talk. “That would--if you want to.”
Above her, Peter laughs, but it’s strained.
“Want to,” he says. “You’re sitting here in that skirt and we just made out for a full hour and you’re asking if I want to jerk off--yeah, I want to.”
Jerk off is unexpectedly hot, and Lara Jean can picture it, suddenly. His hands. His dick, which she’s seen but only sort of, once or twice. She never felt like she could really look, because that would be promising too much--but now here Peter is, the one offering, and she can look as much as she wants to.
“Yeah,” she says, again, because he’s not moving, and she sits up to kiss him--to promise him that she means it.
“Okay,” he says, between kisses, kissing it against her mouth, “yeah, okay, wow.”
He moves his hands down towards his jeans, then, and she pulls back to watch: the way his hands shake a little as he unzips them, how he reaches in, one big hand, under the elastic of his boxers, and pulls his dick out. He makes a little noise when he touches it, and bitten-off sound, and then he moves his hand slowly over it, up and down. She can see the head peeking out of his fist, every time he moves, darker than the rest of his skin and shiny at the tip, like it’s wet there.
She wonders what it would feel like in her hand, what it would look like, her fingers so much smaller than Peter’s broad ones.
“I’m gonna--this is quick, I’m sorry, sorry,” Peter’s saying, and he’s moving his hand faster, fingers tightening, and then he makes another noise like he’s trying to be quiet and his whole body tightens.
His whole hand is shiny, now, and his shirt is covered in wet spots too. He moves his hand once or twice more, slowing down, and it’s pretty much exactly what Lara Jean would have thought, except it’s not scary any more. Except it’s hot. Somehow she’d never thought about that part--how hot it might be, to see Peter like that. To watch that happen.
“Is it--was that--” Peter asks. He’s breathing hard, chest working, and he wipes his hand off on his shirt. He looks down, at the dirty shirt and his hand all twisted up in it. He’s not looking at her.
“I want—next time,” Lara Jean says, and leans over to kiss him before she can finish, his flushed and sweaty face, his damp curls. His eyes open in front of hers, so big.
“Next time, can I try?” Lara Jean asks, finally, and Peter nods, like it’s the best thing he’s ever heard.
“Are you kidding, Covey? Anything,” he says, and he’s smiling at her now.
“I just get nervous sometimes, that you know what you’re doing, how this is supposed to go, and I’ll do something wrong,” Lara Jean says, leaning back against him.
“There’s plenty of stuff I don’t know about either,” Peter says. “I know you think that me and Gen did everything, but we didn’t really.”
“You had sex, though,” Lara Jean says. She’s not jealous anymore, not really. It’s just that she can’t help wishing that he didn’t have anyone to compare her with. That she got to be the baseline.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t—it wasn’t like this,” Peter says. “It just happened. I barely knew what I was doing. We didn’t—like, I never even went down on her.”
He blushes after he says it. For the first time, Lara Jean thinks maybe he’s nervous about some things too. It shouldn’t feel like such a revelation.
“Is that—something you want to do?”
Peter’s still beet red.
“I mean, yeah,” he says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. That he would want to do that, to her.
“But I wouldn’t—I probably wouldn’t be very good,” he says, and Lara Jean doesn’t know how she would even be able to tell. She thinks about it, though, just for a second—imagines his bright eyes and tumbled curls between her thighs, the way he might flash that cocky grin before he—
The image makes something flash hot inside her, building on the heat that’s been growing ever since Peter reached into his pants, ever since he leaned over her on the couch and kissed her lips. She shifts on the couch, award for the first time of how much her skirt has ridden up since they first sat down.
She doesn’t know how to fit everything she’s thinking about into words, so she kissed him instead, so that she can stop thinking all together. It doesn’t work, though; he kisses her neck and she thinks about the shape of his lips and shivers hard. She steadies herself against him and touches a patch of wetness on his shirt, thinks about the noises he’d made, the way his whole body looked after. When his hand settles on her thigh she leans into it, shifting wordlessly forward against him.
“What’re you thinking about, Covey?” Peter whispers in his ear, some of that beloved familiar cockiness sliding back into place.
“Do you really—” she asks, trying to say it, and he kisses her again.
“You have no idea, do you,” he says when he pulls away. “But—not today, yeah? I just sort of sprang this on you. I’ll wait as long as you want, Lara Jean.”
She loves him for saying it, she really does. But—right now, today, she feels wild with wanting him, with the memory of how he opened himself up for her, of what he did. She slides against him again and feels how wet she is. Her heart pounds, but she’s not afraid.
“I want it,” she says to him. “What you said.”
She should be able to at least say it, she thinks, and does: “I want you to go down on me. I mean, if you—no pressure.”
“God, Covey,” Peter says, and groans into her neck. He slides his hand up further under her skirt, and something in her crows in wild triumph.
"But I don't--I haven't shaved," she says, suddenly nervous; she didn't think about this possibility at all, and now she feels stupid for not being prepared. She--there's hair, and it might taste weird, and what if he hates it--
"What?" Peter says, genuinely confused, and then he laughs against her skin, shaking his head.
“Lara Jean, I don't care if you're the abominable snowman under there, it's you, it's gonna be the hottest thing in the world no matter what. LJ, Covey, god, I can’t—if you don’t mean this you’re gonna have to say, because I can’t be smart for both of us right now. You really, can I really--”
It's the hottest thing in the world, hearing the want in his voice--he's practically trembling, fingers tightening rhythmically against her thighs like he's trying to get himself under control, and she's the one who made him this way; it's all for her. She needs, suddenly, to see what he'll do with all of this wanting. What he'll do to her, how he'll make her feel.
"Yes," she says, "I mean it, Peter, if you really--if it's really okay, I want it."
He moves away from her, then, and she’s confused at the loss, disoriented—and then she sees it: he’s sliding off the couch, going to his knees. In front of her.
“If it’s not good, just—you can tell me, I’m sorry,” Peter’s saying, not making any sense, “sorry, I’ll just, I’ll stop.”
But he’s not stopping; he’s sliding both his hands up now, and her skirt with them, so that it’s just her thin cotton underwear between Peter and her body.
“God,” he says, once, and looks up—and there it is, that smile, half-nervous and half-delighted, and then he pulls her underwear aside and closes his eyes and she can’t look anymore, it’s too much.
The first flat press of his tongue makes her shout: a full-body shock of pleasure stronger than anything she was ready for. He lifts his head again, worried, and she tries to reassure him but she can’t speak, just reaches wildly for his curly head and presses against it, wanting.
“Covey,” he says, long and low, like a curse, and then he’s back, and she can’t breathe.
Years later she’ll look back on this moment and know that, technically, it was inexpert: messy and overeager and clumsy. But even in her memories, it never stops feeling like being reborn: the shocking hotness, the way it melts her spine and makes her moan, noises she didn’t even know were inside her.
Peter kisses her, wet and too soft, and presses his flat tongue against her, licking, and Lara Jean tries not to squirm against him, tries not to buck her hips for more. When he finally finds her clit she’s sweating, shaking, and he drags his lips over it and that’s it, that’s all it takes. She shakes apart, one hand still in his hair and the other in her mouth, like it’s the only thing keeping her from flying apart completely.
“Oh,” she’s saying, “oh, oh, God,” and Peter kisses her on one thigh, soft and wondering, and then on the other, and then tries to lick her again—it’s too much, suddenly, and she almost kicks him in the head.
“Sorry,” he says, chagrined, “sorry, sorry, I just wanted to see—”
Lara Jean shudders again, suddenly, even the immediate memory of it like an aftershock, and Peter’s smile disappears—his face is quiet and a little shy, awed.
“Was that okay, though?” he asks, and Lara Jean's heart is still pounding. She aches with how good it was.
“Yeah,” she says, because she doesn't know how to say the rest of it. Instead, she smiles, helplessly, and he grins back at her.
“It’s just, I know that was—that was fast, LJ,” Peter says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. He’s back next to her on the couch, and she can see that his chin is shiny, wet. Holy shit.
“I mean, not you, not—just, all of this. You promise you’re really okay?”
Lara Jean, brave with the knowledge that this is what’s on the other side—Peter’s smile and his trust, the way her body feels—kisses him on the jaw, tastes herself on his face. It’s not so bad; new and unusual, maybe. But not bad.
“I’m extremely okay, Peter Kavinsky,” she says, and--after all her agonizing--is surprised to find that it’s completely true.
Pleased with herself, Lara Jean snuggles deeper into the couch, into Peter’s side. His arm comes up around her, and it’s still thrilling—even this tiny, not new at all thing. Every time.
Chapter 6: Drugstore
This is very definitely rated E now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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?”
“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.
Despite what an 18 year old may have been culturally led to believe, penetrative sex is not, of course, "real sex" any more than any other kind of sex is.