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remember the days

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“Will you be my girlfriend, Lara Jean Covey?”

---

The elevator dings and out steps the three Covey girls, each laden with boxes. Their appearance garners brief looks from other bustling freshman, chaos reigning as students begin moving into their new college dorm. The two elder, perhaps, also receive a few lingering stares but neither really take notice.

Margot  - the eldest - has already experienced the rampant hormones of excited freshman two years prior; Lara Jean, the actual freshman, is far too busy soaking in every single detail to notice. Each step forward feels momentous and she is determined to remember each and every one.

“Co-ed dorms,” Margot comments, a little skeptically. “I forgot UVA was trying to be ‘progressive’ now.” Lara Jean, of course, stifles the urge to roll her eyes at her big sister’s over protective tendencies.

“Not everyone gets to go to a posh, snooty Scottish University, GoGo,” Kitty, the youngest, chimes. “With all their stuffy rules, are you sure they even have guys at St. Andrews?”

This comment makes Lara Jean stifle a laugh. Kitty has always been known for her biting wit.

“I think I recall it being on your UVA ‘cons’ list,” Lara Jean pipes up, diplomatically. “You didn’t want the 'distractions'.” Also, at the time Margot had been in a steady two-year relationship with Josh Sanderson, and it hadn’t seemed like they were going to break up anytime soon, so co-ed dorms didn’t have much of an appeal… at the time. But Lara Jean doesn’t mention that.

To be honest, she’s actually quite nervous about the whole co-ed situation. It’ll certainly be a big adjustment to live around guys. And college was already a big adjustment on its own. The only man Lara Jean has ever had to live with was her Dad, and at least he had his own private bathroom.

The Covey house is all girls otherwise - no chance of seeing a guy strut around shirtless down the hall. Most girls might find it exciting, but she found the prospect a little terrifying. At her senior year ski trip, one of Kenny Cavanaugh’s friends had yanked off his towel to reveal all that was underneath. Lara Jean was still scarred from the sudden shock of seeing... it.

“I know,” Margot intones, shooting a stern look at a pair of guys checking her sister out as they passed.

“Margot!” Lara Jean whines out the side of her mouth. “You’re embarrassing me.” It almost made her wish her big sister had left for Scotland last week like originally planned, instead of tomorrow. At the time, Lara Jean had been feeling so anxious about starting college, that having Margot there seemed like a blessing. Now… well, Lara Jean was reevaluating the situation. It might have been a better idea to move her things without Margot’s watchful gaze.

Their Dad was actually a lot cooler about these things than Margot was - perhaps even a little too cool, lest Lara Jean forget the envelope full of condoms he had handed to her just as she had left on the aforementioned ski trip. Unfortunately, their Dad was circling the carpark right now, trying to navigate through the throng of parents dropping off their kids.

Continuing down the hall, Lara Jean mumbled under her breath, “208, 210, 212… Ah! 214! This is me!” she exclaimed, excited to see her name scribbled on the small whiteboard affixed to the door. Well, half her name, technically, but she was long accustomed to people assuming that her name was Lara Covey by now, everyone always left out the Jean.

Margot takes a step forward, peering at the board. “Hmm… looks like your roommate’s name is Edith McClaren. I really hope you both get along.” A slightly pinched expression crosses her face and Lara Jean knows she’s remembering her own freshman roommate from hell.

“Hopefully!” Lara Jean repeats cheerfully, trying not to think the worst before she’s even met the girl. She didn’t want any negativity before stepping inside what would be her new home for the coming year.

She swings the door open, but gets distracted before she can get a proper look at her room. A guy - not shirtless, but in a tank top so tight he might as well be - walks past giving Lara Jean a typical ‘Wassup’ look as he goes. She gulps, her eyes following him shamelessly. He looked liked someone out of her favorite romance novels, and from the confident swagger, the guy knew it.

“Man, I can’t wait until I go to college,” Kitty announces breathily, fanning her face like they do on all her TV shows.

“Kitty!” Margot admonishes, torn between horror and amusement. Playfully, Margot moves forward to cover Kitty’s face with one hand, shielding her innocent eyes from the view. “You’re much too young to be ogling guys. Of any age!”

“Aw, come on, GoGo!” Kitty argues, twisting in vain to get another peak. “I’ve seen plenty worse on the internet!”

This garners another gasp from Margot. “What have your eleven year old eyes been looking at on the internet, Kathrine Song Covey?!”

“I meant, like on cable and netflix!” Kitty counters, laughing.

A pang of sadness hits Lara Jean as she watches her sisters’ playful banter, suddenly feeling very homesick. It’s silly, really. Margot has already been off in Scotland for two years now, so it’s not usually like this during the school year. And to be frank, Lara Jean has kind of gotten used to not having her big sister around.

Kitty, on the other hand, has always been a constant, and it’s hard to imagine not having her just down the hall, waking up to her loud footsteps running rampant around the house, watching Golden Girls marathons, or when the pair sneak downstairs for impromptu midnight sundae sessions. The University of Virginia isn’t too far from home, only fifteen minutes with no traffic, but it’s not the same. It’s not, 'just down the hall'.

Lara Jean sighs. She supposes she’ll just have to get used to Kitty not being around either. Out of all the adjustments she’s going to have to make, that’s the one she feels least prepared for.

The little tussle is beginning to escalate, peals of Kitty’s laughter bouncing off the walls at her continual attempts to escape Margot’s grasp.

“Woah, woah, woah…” a deep, panicked (and a little amused) voice exclaims just as Kitty’s boxes start falling, the contents rattling around noisily.

A tall - like, really, really tall - dark haired guy who was walking past lunges and Lara Jean watches in horrified slow-motion as he tried valiantly to save it from hitting the ground.

“Oops, Sorry!” Kitty sing songs, still breathless with laughter. At least Margot has the decency to to look properly sheepish.

“It’s okay, Kitty,” Lara Jean reassures with a laugh. There was nothing valuable in that box anyway. She had made sure of it. Quickly, she sets her own boxes down and scrambles to pick up the fallen box herself.

“Ow!”

The guy moves at the same time and their heads bang against each other.

“Oh, sorry!” They both apologize together.

“No, no, I’m the one who should be…” Lara Jean rushes but trails off as she looks up into the guy’s face, inches away from hers. “... sorry.”

It’s not the guy’s devastatingly good looks that has Lara Jean stunned speechless - like seriously, his face belongs on a billboard or movie screen somewhere - but there is something about his eyes that seem startling familiar.

She squints, puzzled.

Margot coughs softly after a few moments and Lara Jean realizes she’s blatantly staring.

“Um, thanks,” she finally says, gesturing to the box still being held in both of their hands. “For, um, trying to save my stuff, I mean.”

“You’re welcome,” he responds, nodding his head. He doesn’t say it in a cocky way, more gently, even though he’d totally be in his rights. She’s sure he is more than used to girls staring.

Lara Jean feels so embarrassed that she doesn’t register that he’s staring at her too, equally confused.

“Lara Jean?”

It’s startling to hear the familiarity in his voice. Wait. Huh?

“Er, yes? Er, do I - have we met?”

A broad grin breaks out across his face and he laughs. “It’s me, Peter! Peter Kavinsky. Do you remember? From elementary school?”

“Oh!” Her eyes widen in surprise, something finally clinking into place - those eyes, how could she have possibly forgotten the eyes with golden specks in them, the eyes she once knew oh-so-well. “Oh, wow, Peter!” She laughs. “Peter Kavinsky!”

Lara Jean hadn’t meant to repeat his name like that, but she was struggling to form a coherent thought and it was the best her befuddled brain could manage.

Probably partly habit, too. Back when they were kids, in the third or fourth grade, she had always referred to him by his full name in her head - that or Peter K. Never just, Peter.

It was so bizarre seeing him all grown up now - decidedly not the short, scrawny ten year old boy anymore.

“It’s so good to see you! I can’t even… this is… wow!” she stammers out.

Peter laughs again, scrunching his nose, his grin still stretched across his features. The action hits her with its familiarity. He used to do that all the time. That’s how she knew he was really, genuinely happy, and not just forcing it to be polite.

“It’s great to see you, too!” he exclaims, surprising Lara Jean again when he leans down and pulls her into a hug, again, just like when they were kids. It’s the breifest of hugs but Lara Jean still feels her face grow hot at the embrace. Thankfully Margot has already ushered Kitty inside her new dorm room, and the pair are only obliquely watching the unexpected reunion.

“I haven’t seen you since…” she starts.

“Since I moved away, yeah,” Peter finishes without prompting. “This is so cool. Are you on this floor, too?”

“Um, yeah, actually, this is me.” Lara Jean gestures to the open door and Peter studies it for a moment.

“Ha! That’s insane!” His head turns and he nods.  “I’m 213! Looks like we’re gonna be neighbors again, Covey. Small world, huh?”

“Yeah,” she responds, chuckling nervously, still stunned. “Really small world.”

Peter’s pocket dings and he pulls out his phone. “Oh, my mom’s just parked, so I gotta go get my stuff, but like, I’ll see you around, yeah?”

“Yeah,” she repeats, nodding. She still feels a little numb. Peter quickly dumps his stuff in his room before turning back, leaning down to pull her into another hug.

“Great! This year just got a whole lot more awesome, Lara Jean. I can’t wait to catch up. I’ll talk to you soon!”

“Yeah, talk soon.”

With that, Peter, Peter Kavinsky, disappears down the hall into the elevator, shooting her one last brilliant smile and a wave as the doors ding shut.

“Who was that? ” asks Kitty, a gleeful (read: mischievous) twinkle in her eye.

“Peter, Peter Kavinsky,” Lara Jean parrots again, turning back to her sisters and entering her new room. Her new living situation for the next eight months completely escapes her notice as she walks over to the uncovered mattress like a zombie and plomps backwards on the bed.

“He’s the little boy that used to live across the street from us, right, LJ?” Margot asks thoughtfully and Lara Jean nods.

“Yeah, um, he used to live in Ms. Rothchild’s house before his family moved away.”

Margot snickers, a reminiscent lilt to her teasing. “Yeah, I remember now. You two used to run around the front yard in the paddling pool. You used to get so jealous that he could run around with his shirt off and you couldn’t.”

Lara Jean groans. She’d forgotten about that. “Thanks for reminding me, GoGo,” she says just as Kitty squeals, “Really?!” followed by a peal of laughter.

Thankfully, their Dad arrives before more teasing can get underway, two large suitcases rolling along with him, and Lara Jean distracts herself with unpacking, trying desperately not to think about her childhood friend.

Best friend, really.

And if she really wanted to get technical about it, he had also been Lara Jean’s very first boyfriend; and there hadn’t even with a space between those words, boy and friend.

Peter Kavinksy had been Lara Jean Covey’s first real, live boyfriend.

It had only lasted one day, but still, it counted.

At least to her it did.

But, she doubts Peter even remembers that day on the playground before he moved away.

Chapter Text

Part 2

 

"If you’re my girlfriend, then we’ll have to stay together. Even if we're miles apart, that’s just what boyfriend/girlfriends do.”

---

[Received 5:46pm - Chris Meyers] your family left yet?

[Sent 5:47pm - Lara Jean Song Covey] Yeah, they just left :'( Do you want to come over.

[Received 5:47pm - Chris Meyers] YES i need to get out of here gen is driving me crazy

Less than ten minutes later, Chris barges into Lara Jean's dorm room without knocking. The door impacts the wall with such force Lara Jeans's a little worried that it's made a dent or something, but the thought only briefly crosses her mind when the object of her friend’s frustration become evident.

"Honestly, Chris, I can't believe you would buy something so tacky. Do you not have any semblance of taste?"

"Look, Lara Jean, it's Gen," Chris announces in a deadpanned voice, talking over her cousin's whining. Without another word, she stalks over to Lara Jean's bed, flopping down face first and screaming into her tasseled blue throw pillow. It is abundantly clear to Lara Jean what her friend's intention is, and if Chris wasn't obviously moments away from tearing out hair, Lara Jean might have been inclined to laugh.

Gen opens her mouth to chastise Chris, the words 'Oh, grow up,' clearly perched on the tip of her tongue when Lara Jean distracts her.

"Uh, hi, Gen, how was your summer?"

Gen turns to Lara Jean, a calculative expression darkening her face. "It was good. How was yours?" Her voice holds the air of faux sweetness that Lara Jean has come to expect from Gen. It would irritate her more if wasn’t so used to it after all these years.

Trying to keep her response as light and cheerful as possible, she replies "It was great! Really had a chance to check things off the bucket list before, you know, becoming a full-fledged college student."

Gen arches one of her perfectly shaped eyebrows at her and Lara Jean braces for the expected jab at her expense.

"Really? Then why do you look so pale? Did you even go outside at all? Or did you spend the entire time inside baking, scrapbooking and reading like you always do?"

It’s hard not to flinch at just how on-the-nose Gen’s assumption is, but as practiced, Lara Jean simply deflects her ‘friend’s’ cutting remarks.

“Oh, and don’t forget to mention dumpster diving for clothes. I needed a few new outfits now that the school year is beginning.” Of course, that isn’t true. Well, the dumpster part, anyway. Lara Jean absolutely loves scouring second-hand shops for all kinds of vintage clothes. It is one of her favorite past times. (Along with baking, scrapbooking, and reading, that is.) Which she had spent a good portion of summer doing. Gen has been disparaging Lara Jean’s style choices since freshman year of high school, and the latter has long giver up on trying to impress others.

It goes without saying that Chris is Lara Jean’s best friend, has been ever since… well… anyway. Once upon a time, the roles had been reversed because Gen had lived two streets over from her, and well in middle school, friendships were pretty much determined by proximity. It was kind of funny, actually. Almost like, when Peter K moved away, Gen got the position by default. Gen had moved to bigger house a couple years later, and now, they were no longer that close. In fact, Gen barely tolerated Lara Jean nowadays.

Lara Jean could never really figure out why. They were still sort-of friends, but they weren’t close, so often wondered why Gen even bothered to try and play nice.

Lara Jean, however, didn’t really hold grudges, that wasn’t her style, so whenever Gen said something nasty, she just let the comments roll off her back.

Her friendship with Chris, though, was built on something much deeper than proximity. Although personality-wise, they were total opposites, Lara Jean found she had lot more in common with Chris. And it wasn’t even their taste in music, or movies, or clothes that grounded their friendship. It was the acceptance of each other’s likes and dislikes, and even choices, without judgement that kept them together. For instance, Chris never made fun of Lara Jean’s fondness for ‘bodice ripper’ romance novels, and Lara Jean never lectured Chris about her truancy vibes during high school, because when it came down to the important stuff, they both knew , without a doubt, that they would always be there for each other.

Gen opens her mouth to retort, but realising that she can’t very well belittle something that Lara Jean already has, it snaps shut again a second later. “Yes, well,” she finally replies through terse lips. “Whatever floats your boat, Lara Jean, or whatever it is they say. Speaking of boats...” She rolls her eyes, flicking her pristinely curled locks pointedly behind her tanned shoulder, over which she can see the door opposite her own, sitting slightly ajar.

“Oh, how was Turks and Caicos, Gen?” Lara Jean supplies genially, though her attention is caught elsewhere. The distraction works quite well, actually. All Lara Jean has to do is nod and hum occasionally, and Gen gets to prattle on about her ‘oh-so-perfect’ summer vacation while giving Chris the much needed peace she needs. Even if it only lasts for a few minutes.

Lara Jean’s thoughts, though, are with Peter Kavinsky and his sudden reappearance in her life.

The recollections of the summer before he moved away come back to her in surprising detail. It had been a particularly hard couple of months, their summer fun burdened by Peter’s dad’s absence. Lara Jean only learned towards the end that Mr. Kavinsky had walked out on his family.

Before then, Lara Jean had been baffled by Peter’s behaviour, constantly fluctuating between being really sad and really angry. He was picking fights with other kids in the playground, stealing candy from the local store, or holing up in his room for days at a time refusing to come out and play. It was only when he’d accidentally gotten Lara Jean hurt during a daring bike jump - ‘ we can be just like those youtubers and earn loads of money,’ he’d promised - that he’d broke down and apologized.

It had been the first time Lara Jean had ever seen Peter cry. She remembered sitting on her porch step, staring at his profile because he refused to meet her gaze. But she could tell he was crying from the way his tears dotted the old wooden step, the dirt on its faded turquoise paint pooling in little droplets.

She had forgiven him instantly, of course - because that’s just what best friends do - slipping her bandaged hand in his and holding on with a steady squeeze until he’d finally cried himself out.  

Lara Jean still had the scar, thirteen stitches all the way up her right forearm.

After that incident it had all become too much for his mother, especially since she was working full time, and with Peter’s little brother, Owen, still being a little kid - or well, an even littler kid - it made taking care of them really hard to manage. So, just before 5th grade had started, Mrs. Kavinsky (former) had decided to pack up and move her sons nearer to Peter’s aunt who lived over two hours away.

Back then it had seemed like the end of the world.

In a way, Lara Jean supposes, it kind of was.

She is still staring blankly at Peter’s door when it suddenly swings open revealing his tall - and very handsome - figure. He sees her instantly and a broad grin stretches across his face, nose crinkle and all.

“Hey, Covey!” he calls. “Meet my new roomie, Lucas!” He gestures to a slightly shorter African-American guy who follows him out of their room.  “Lucas, this is the girl I was telling you about. We used to live opposite each other when we were little. Crazy, huh?”

Lara Jean smiles, lifting her hand in a shy wave. “Nice to meet you, Lucas.”

“Oh, is this your new roommate, LJ?” Peter asks, turning to look at Gen, still friendly as ever. But then his eyes flick behind them and he spots Chris. “Or…”

“Nah, Peter…” She shakes her head and begins to explain, but Gen cuts her off.

“Kavinsky? As in, the Peter Kavinsky?” she asks incredulously.

Peter’s brow lifts curiously. “Er, yes?” Lara Jean waits expectantly for recognition to dawn on his face, because surely if he remembered her, then he would remember Gen, the girl who all the guys used to follow around the neighborhood.

“Don’t you remember me, silly?” Gen asks in a high pitched giggle, her earlier sour demeanour completely vanished. “From when we were kids?”

“Er, oh, yes?” Peter replies, but it’s clear he doesn’t. “You’re Lara Jean’s friend...”

“No, Peter,” Gen whines, but in an ‘attractive’ way, swatting playfully at his upper arms. “It’s Genevieve, remember?” She flips her hair again, strategically moving her neck to emphasise her bare collar bone.

Peter blinks. “Oh… oh, yeah, right!” he finally exclaims. “Gen...right?” He returns her pretty smile, but Lara Jean can’t help but note that it doesn’t crinkle his nose like it did earlier. “Wow, it’s like an Adler Elementary reunion in here.” His gaze has now shifted behind them again. “And...Chris?” he checks again, pointing to the pair. “You guys are cousins, right?”

“Hey, Peter,” Chris nods casually from her position on the bed. She’s sitting up properly now, watching the whole exchange with a curious interest. “Nice to see you again. What’s it been? A million years?”

Peter laughs. “Not quite, but it sure feels like it.” He looks at Lara Jean and smiles again before continuing. “Anyway, Lucas and I were gonna head to the mess for dinner. Do you wanna join?”

“Oh, Peter, that’s so sweet,” Gen chimes in, grabbing his attention again.

“Yeah, well, Lucas and I figure, the more the merrier, right?”

Lara Jean shoots a look over at Chris, who shrugs. “Sure, I could eat,” the blonde says, and soon the group of five are walking towards the mess hall together.

It only takes two minutes of talking to Lucas for Lara Jean to see that he’s a great fit to be Peter’s roommate. He’s friendly and funny, and very energetic in the way he speaks. It takes the same amount of time for Lara Jean to hope that they’ll soon be good friends, too. He has this bubbly excitement about starting college and classes that matches her own, and it’s refreshing to meet someone who loves learning as much as she does.

Bonus, he comments on how much he loves her army style platform heels and praises Chris’ vintage fendi vest almost immediately, and it makes Lara Jean beam with pride.

Peter is a few paces ahead of them, talking animatedly with Gen, and every now and then Lara Jean sneaks a look up him, taking in his features as much as possible without being too obvious.  Gen, on the other hand, is being completely obvious in her flirting, but Peter doesn’t seem to mind the attention.

Lara Jean’s really happy to have her old friend back in her life again, and to see just how happy he is. Especially in contrast with the boy that moved away that summer. She learns through the course of dinner that Peter at UVA on a lacrosse scholarship - which explains the muscles, she thinks to herself - and that he got a couple of offers interstate but he wanted to stay close to home to be near his mom and brother.

This brings a smile to her face, because even though he’s changed in so many ways, in other ways, Peter is exactly the same.

They’re all still sitting at these picnic tables outside the  dining hall, a bunch of empty trays sitting abandoned, as they enjoy the last of the summer night warth. Gen has once again taken over the conversation, talking (read: bragging) about her time in Turks and Caicos, but since Lara Jean just finished listening to this speech a short while ago, she’s kind of tuned out. Lucas and Chris are also having their own conversation, so really it’s only Peter listening.

“What’s the surfing like there?” Peter asks. “I’ve always wanted to give it a try, but like, beaches are a bitch to get to from my home.”

Lara Jean also hears Lucas ask Chris at the same time, “So, let me get this straight. You and Gen live together?” He shoots a dubious look between them, and Lara Jean has to press her lips tight so she doesn't laugh at how horrified Lucas sounds. “But it seems like you guys hate each other.

“Yeah, you’re not wrong. But, well, our parents are sadists with a passion for cruel and unusual punishment,” Chris deadpans. “I tried to convince LJ’s dad to let her live with us, but he said no. Total bummer.”

“My dad didn’t see the point of me living off campus and not live at home,” Lara Jean supplies. “He said it was a waste of money.” Also, privately her dad had told her that he didn’t want her missing out of the ‘college experience’, for the first year, at least, and living in the dorms was a part of that.

Chris groans. “So, yeah, I’m stuck with high-maintenance barbie over there until next year. Or until we either kill each other. Fingers crossed.” Chris lifts her crossed fingers as if she’s really hoping the latter will happen, which Lucas appreciates with a laugh.

“I heard that, Chris,” Gen interjects, shooting Chris an annoyed glance.

“Well, I meant for you too, Cuz,” Chris shoots back and they all laugh.

A bunch of Peter’s lacrosse buddies come charging past a short while later, and they all make the introductions. Lara Jean ends up squeezed next to Peter somehow as they take a seat, their arms brushing against each other. He looks down and smiles at her again, mouthing, “Hi”. Lara Jean blushes and murmurs ‘Hi’ back, scrambling to try and think of something fun or witty to add.  

But then his gaze shifts, and Peter frowns. “It that…?” he asks, and she nods, swallowing thickly as he reaches out to her forearm and runs his fingers along the old scar, turned white with age. It’s the kind of scar that will be there permanently. It will never fade. “Shit, Lara Jean…”

“Don’t even worry about it, Peter” she says quickly, pulling her arms down and hiding it under the table, suddenly feeling very self conscious. She would normally wear something long-sleeved to cover it up, but in all the excitement, Lara Jean had left her cardigan back in her dorm.

Peter opens his mouth to say something more, but one of the lacrosse guys says something and a roar of laughter erupts from the table. Both she and Peter turn their heads, drawn into the commotion.

If someone had told her this morning that she’d be spending her first night at college sitting in the middle of a table full of jocks, joking about the most random of things, Lara Jean would have called them delusional. She didn’t even really understand how she found herself in this position, particularly with the side of her small frame pressed up against Peter’s solid one.

At some point, a bunch of alcohol begins to get passed around and Lara Jean takes that as her cue to get some dessert instead. She slips away inside to where slices of cakes sit behind a glass display and she studies the different varieties to try and decide which one she’d like.

“Chocolate or lemon or swiss meringue?” Lara Jean ponders aloud.

“Chocolate,” Peter says behind her, and she jumps. “You were always a chocolate kind of girl. Even better if it’s choc-chip.”

Lara Jean smiles. “How do you remember that?” she asks, turning to face him properly.

He shrugs sheepishly. “I dunno. I just do. Though I also remember that any kind of cake is also your thing, so I guess you can’t go wrong with any of them. Am I right?”

She laughs. “Yeah, pretty much. Except, you’re right, too. Chocolate is my fav.”

Peter reaches over and takes one slice of each anyway. “What?” he asks with a cheeky grin. “I’m hungry and it’s called sharing, Covey.”

They only end up sharing the chocolate slice since the others get whisked away by some of the guys, but it’s still a fun moment that reminds Lara Jean of when they were young.

The rest of the night continues in a bit of blur, and they don’t really get a chance to speak again as Peter’s attention is pulled this way and that. He’s quite obviously the King of the Crowd. Somehow, the group migrates to a games room in one of the dorms, playing beer pong or shooting pool.

Lara Jean is sitting on a couch, still talking to Lucas and Chris, when she looks up and sees Peter hanging with Gen on the opposite end of the room, the pair looking very cosy together.

A twinge of regret hits her as she watches Gen draw Peter further into conversation, touching his arm and flipping her hair in that way she does. Back in the day, Gen had announced multiple times that if she was ever to pick a boyfriend, it would be Peter. Even after he moved away, Gen had claimed Peter as hers. Lara Jean never mentioned to Gen that Peter had asked her to be his girlfriend. That had been something that was just between them. Her’s and Peter’s, only.

But now, seeing them together, Lara Jean can see it already. Peter and Gen just have this ‘power couple’ about them. With Gen’s beauty and Peter’s classic handsome features, Lara Jean assumes that it won’t be long before they become an item. She could see their entire relationship play out just like in one of her novels - childhood friends turned to romance.

It seems like Gen’s finally going to get her wish, Lara Jean thinks to herself.

Not that Lara Jean minds, of course, because her silly ‘relationship’ with Peter was never really a thing, and they’re both long past that. All she cares about was that Peter was happy, and if he was happy with Gen, then Lara Jean would be happy for them.

As if sensing her gaze, Peter looks over at her and they share a smile before his eyes return to Gen.

He looks happy.

It’s just that, well, it would have been nice to get to know Peter again, before he became ‘Peter and Gen’.

Chapter Text

Part 3

“Okay, Peter Kavinsky. Let’s do this.”

---

Somehow, Lara Jean survives the first few days of orientation on minimal sleep and many, many cups of coffee. Every day is full on with lectures and/or activities designed to ‘orient’ the freshman with college life. And then the evenings are when the students’ take charge and the so-called ‘real’ education beings.

It’s utterly exhausting.

She awakes on the last day before classes officially begin to a loud knock on the door. Lara Jean growls, bleary eyes squeezing shut and burying her face further into her pillow. She hopes if she just ignores the noise they’ll go away. Lara Jean hadn’t gotten into bed until past 1am the night before, and she had been looking forward to a nice sleep in preparation for the actual learning part of college.

They don’t.

A quiet growl escapes her, directed at whoever that is even though they obviously can’t hear her. Internally debating the drawbacks of chopping of said person’s hand, Lara Jean drags herself out of bed. Shuffling to answer, she is surprised to be faced with a perplexed looking Gen, staring at her.

Wait, no. Not at her.

At her door.

Lara Jean turns her head to see what’s got Gen’s mouth looking like she’s sucking on a sour lemon. All that's there are four simple words written on her whiteboard.

“Breakfast? Meet @ 9”

The handwriting is unfamiliar, but it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that it’s probably from Peter. Or maybe Lucas. As a group, the five of them have hung out every day, going through all the orientation stuff together. So it isn’t much of a stretch. Obviously the innocuous breakfast invite annoys Gen, but Lara Jean is baffled as to why. It’s just breakfast…

“Er, hey, Gen…” Lara Jean finally greets, and like some magical switch has been flipped, Gen’s sour face brightens into a wide, friendly smile.

“Morning, Lara Jean, I was wondering if you’d like to get breakfast together?”

Lara Jean stares at her blankly. She and Chris live about a five minute drive off campus, so Gen showing up unexpectedly for breakfast like this feels really weird.

“Er… Sure,” Lara Jean answers hesitantly. “Just let me get ready.”

Not once in all of high school has Gen ever wanted to share breakfast together. Lara Jean ponders this as she moves about the room, collecting her bathroom supplies. Yesterday, Lucas had mentioned when they all met up that he, Peter and Lara Jean had driven - well, Peter drove. Lara Jean does not drive - to the Corner Cafe in town for some decent coffee. So perhaps that was it? Maybe?

“Where’s Chris? Doesn’t she want to eat, too?” she asks just before she leaves for the bathroom, turning to Gen who has settled on the empty mattress where her future roommate should be.

“Oh, you know Christine.” Gen shrugs, not bothering to look up from her phone while she answers. “She’s never up before the crack of noon. She’ll take care of herself, I’m sure.”

“Oh, okay…” Lara Jean nods, hesitating at the door. She’s not sure how she feels about leaving Gen alone inside her room. It’s not that she doesn’t trust Gen, it’s just that… she doesn’t trust Gen. Luckily Edith has yet to make an appearance, so at least, Lara Jean doesn’t also have to deal with leaving Gen with a sleeping roommate, too. “Er, I’ll just be a few minutes...Feel free to, um, make yourself at home…”

Her voice is tight and not 100% convincing, but she really can't see any alternative. It’s not like she could ask Gen to wait outside in the hallway…

Twenty minutes later, Lara Jean returns to find her room empty, and more annoyingly, the door left wide open.

She frowns, turning to the closed door opposite. As if on cue, a high pitched laugh sounds, muffled through the wood, and it takes everything in her not to march in there and wring Gen’s skinny little neck.

She doesn’t. But it’s fun to imagine.

After a quick check around to make sure nothing’s missing - ‘cause only god knows when Gen abandoned her room for ‘greener pastures’ - Lara Jean begins to change. Finally, fully dressed and hair pulled back into her signature high ponytail, she exits her room just as her watch clicks over to 9 o’ clock.

Just as she raises her hand to knock, Lucas appears, pulling his door open.

“Oh, thank god,” she hears him mutter under his breath, looking very relieved. “Hey Kavinsky, LJ is ready. Let’s go!” he continues at a normal volume.

She hears Gen’s voice twitter. “Oh, are you guys going somewhere?” followed by Peter’s easy reply, “Yeah, we’re gonna grab some breakfast.”

Lucas starts muttering again. “Don’t do it, man. Don’t do it.” But obviously, Peter doesn’t hear his protests.

“Do you wanna come?”

“Oh, Peter, that’s so sweet! I’d love to!”

Lara Jean is torn between amusement at Lucas’ dismay, and her own disappoint that Gen will by joinging them.

“Cheer up, James. You may have lost your roomie to the dark side…” she begins, linking her arm through his. “But at least you still have me.”

“Thank god, Lara Jean. Thank god.

---

They spend the day getting ready for classes, checking the bookstore, picking up last minute supplies, and scoping out potential future coffee pitstops.

It’s an easy day.

Well, easy in the sense that there’s nothing scheduled or urgent that needs to be done. Chris joins them after midday as predicted. Chris and Lucas sort of hang back together with Lara Jean, and the latter gets the impression that Gen is getting on both their nerves. Peter seems unaffected, though, his easy-going nature - or more likely, romantic interest in Gen - enjoying her company.

Even now, as they all hang out in Lara Jean’s room since it’s still half empty, she can see that Peter doesn’t mind the attention.

It’s raining outside, the steady rhythm of the raindrops hitting the window is the background soundtrack to a small game of truth or dare - Gen’s idea, of course.

It’s Lara Jean’s turn, and she’s watching Lucas very nervously, wondering what truth he’ll ask of her. If her eyes dart anxiously to look at Peter, taking in his figure leaning back against her favorite blue throw pillow, it’s not because of anticipation. It’s not. He’s just sitting right there in her eye line, and she’s on edge. 

“Okay, Lara Jean, let’s start easy, who was your first kiss?”

She freezes. Her first kiss was, well, hers. No one knew who it was, not even Chris or Gen; no one except the recipient of said first kiss, that is.

Before Lara Jean can open her mouth to answer, several things happen all at once. A flash of lightning strikes outside, followed by a loud rumble of thunder and a flicker of the lights, just as her door swings open, banging on the wall.

Lara Jean screams in shock. She’s not the only one. Chris looks white as a sheet, and Peter is sitting up, defensive and ready for an attack, and Gen's trying to get Peter to comfort her. Only Lucas’ eyes are dancing with amusement as they all turns to face the new arrival.

“A welcome party! How wonderful!” the figure exclaims, stepping forward laden with luggage. “Which one of you is the lovely Lara Jean?”

Tentatively, Lara Jean raises her hand, scrambling to her feet.

“Oh my dear, aren’t you a sweetie. My name is Edith, but it is a heinous name that only my mom calls me. Please call me Stormy.” She drops her luggage at the door and walks further into the room, reaching out to give Lara Jean a friendly hug. “I foresee us becoming the best of friends.” Turning to the rest of the group. “Now, be a dear and introduce me to your friends.”

---

It might sound cliche, but the first few weeks of college pass by in a blur. Lara Jean tries her best to hold on to every moment, relish the feeling of finally striking out on her own, but she gets pulled to so many classes and activities, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, that she’s barely has time to think.

In fact, the classes are already a lot more intense than she was prepared for - despite Margot’s long lectures over summer - and while most of the people are nice, there are some that look down on the freshman which isn’t very pleasant, and the whole communal bathroom and kitchen thing is… not the greatest. Everything is a huge adjustment to what Lara Jean is used to, and she’s not sure she’s handling it particularly well.

One highlight though? Oh, why it’s the boy next door, of course.

Lara Jean and Peter have fallen into this rhythm that is reminiscent of their time as kids. Only now, it’s less board games and chocolate milk, and more schedules and coffee, which might not sound like the most fun or romantic thing to think about but it’s actually really nice.

As a scholarship student, Peter takes his lacrosse training very seriously. It’s endearing to watch just how dedicated he is to his fitness, waking up early every morning to work-out. He’s always gone by the time Lara Jean wakes up, but almost every day when she steps outside or returns from classes, there’s a little note written on her door, ready to greet her.

They’re usually silly, inconsequentials things like, “Coffee?” or “What does a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” or “Covey, taking a nap. Wake me up for dinner no matter what!” Her favorite so far, however, read: “I found the best donuts you’ll ever have today, LJ. Can’t wait to see your face when you try one. Pure bliss.”

It makes her smile to come home every day to see the little messages in Peter’s messy scrawl waiting for her. She doesn’t even know why he does it, since he could easily just text her his random thoughts, but instead, he takes the time to write it on her door. It’s nice, knowing that he is thinking of her. Even if it’s in a completely platonic way.

Today’s note reads: “Econ assignment is kicking my butt. Come over when you’re free? Pretty please?”

Shaking her head, Lara Jean digs out her phone from her pocket and takes a quick snap of the message. It’s silly, but just like how Peter keeps writing her notes every day, she likes keeping a pic as of each message as a memento. She doesn’t actually plan on looking at them again, because let’s be honest, none of them are life changing, but it’s fun to know she has the option should she want to.

Opening her door, Lara Jean sees her roommate sitting on her bed, painting her nails.

Stomy was a force of nature the moment she stepped onto campus. She’s bold and boisterous; a truly old soul living in a millenial’s body. But she isn’t arrogant or deceitful like Gen can be. Stormy genuinely seems to love everyone around - everyone except Gen that is. Gen had made a rather unkind comment when they first met, and Stormy had dished it right back. Lara Jean guesses it’s because they’re both so outspoken and strong-willed characters. It’s not surprising that they don’t get along.

Lara Jean, Chris and Lucas absolutely adore her. Peter thinks she’s a laugh riot. So, despite her disagreements with Gen, Stormy fits into the group pretty easily.

It’s nice having a group of friends like this, almost like living on ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ actually.

Lara Jean loves it. It really feels like UVA is beginning to feel like home.

“Hey Stormy,” she greets. “How was your day?”

“It was simply marvelous, gorgeous. Simply marvelous. I flirted with a dashing young gentleman, and he told me such a salacious tale that I was inspired to change my color. ” Stormy held up her hand to show Lara Jean the brilliant red polish, each fingernail perfectly manicured to a point.

Lara Jean lifts her brow and nods approvingly at Stormy’s hand. “Looking good! Are you meeting said young man for a date later?”

Stormy gasps in horror at the idea. “Oh, no, darling. I couldn’t dream of meeting him again so soon. He needs to wait three days, at least. I just gave him a taste, now he needs to work for another.”

Lara Jean laughs at the positively evil glint in Stormy’s eyes. Her roommate was such a unique character that, at first, she had no idea what to make of her. Stormy was dramatic like a woman in her seventies, her style was bold, making a statement wherever she went, and she simply didn’t care what anyone else said of her. She met admirers everywhere she went, and yet, she didn’t give more than she was willing, always leaving them wanting more. It was fascinating to observe. Secretly, Lara Jean wished she had even half the courage that Stormy did.

“Okay, but keep me updated on all the details, please. I want to hear everything.”

“Of course, lovely. Of course.” Lara Jean moves to empty her book bag, collecting her econ stuff before going to sit next to Stormy on the bed, watching as she works. “I was going to ask if you wanted to join me, but I know that you have other plans on your mind.” Stormy continues with a wink.

“Stormy!” Lara Jean exclaims, trying to sound as indignant as possible, but she can already feel her face turning red. “It’s not like that at all. Peter just needs some help, that’s it.”

“Oh, honey, trust me. A man only asks for 'study' help when he wants to spend some time alone.” Stormy nods sagely, indicating towards the door across the hall. “Mark my words, he is waiting to whisk you off your feet.”  

Lara Jean rolls her eyes, shaking her head as she gets to her feet. “I don’t think so. We’re friends, Stormy. Friends ask for help all the time.”

“Keep telling yourself that, dear. You’re completely wrong, but I’ll let you think that you’re right if it makes you feel better.”  

Lara Jean shoots her new friend one last ‘shush’, and closes the door, not wanting her to see her pause outside Peter’s room. She can feel her heart beating wildly in her chest, wondering if what Stormy said had any merit. Surely, not? Right? It had been weeks and Peter had not indicated wanting anything more, not once.

Sure, he was kind and friendly, but that’s just how Peter was with everyone. With Gen. With Chris. With everyone. Right?

Taking a deep breath, Lara Jean knocked on Peter’s door. There’s a thud and a soft curse before he opens the door. As soon as he sees her, the same broad grin that Lara Jean has become accustomed to seeing breaks across his face, nose crinkle and all.

“Covey! My savior!”

Lara Jean returns the bright smile. “Well, I figured, as the nice person that I am, I could at least try to help. But it’s not simply out of the goodness of my heart. I expect mocha sugar donuts as payment.”

Peter laughs. “Deal!”

He steps aside to let her in, and Lara Jean follows, but stops short when she realises he’s not alone.

“Oh, hey, Gen!” Lara Jean greets, trying to keep the same light tone in her voice (and the disappointment out of it). She’s sitting on Peter’s bed, facing a misshapen crease where Peter had obviously been sitting just moments earlier.

“Lara Jean,” Gen replies, giving her a tight smile. “Peter and I were just telling stories from when we were kids. Catching up on old times, you know?”

Lately, Gen had taken to haunting their floor pretty frequently. At first, she would stop by Lara Jean’s room under the pretext of hanging out, but always managed to think up a reason to involve Peter. When Stormy had arrived, well…. Let's just say Gen had dropped the pretense altogether.

Lara Jean nods a little numbly. “Oh, right. That sounds fun.”

“Yeah,” Peter chimes in, completely unaffected as he retakes his place on the bed. Lara Jean notices dimly that he lifts her familiar blue throw pillow with tassels and settles it beneath his head.  So that’s where that had gotten to, she thinks. A vague memory of her bringing it over here to sit on one night flashes through her mind, thinking she must have left it behind. Peter sure seemed comfortable with it, though. “Like how we used to play assassin together, and you scared Mr. Raddish half to death when you jumped out from behind his flower bushes thinking it was me? The look on his face was pure gold!”

"Hardly," Lara Jean groans. "He almost collapsed when he saw me. It traumatized me for ages thinking that I had shortened his life span by like 10 years or something. Luckily he's still alive and kicking now, so I didn't seem to have caused any lasting damage."

“Classic! The man’s a old grump anyway. He needed a little excitement in his life.” Peter guffaws, lifting his arm to cradle his head as he leans further back into her throw pillow. She can't help but appreciate the way his upper arm muscles tense at the action, wondering if he's doing it on purpose to impress Gen. Probably.

“Anyway, uh, Peter did you wanna work on econ now or... “ she rushes out, not wanting to be caught staring.

“Oh right,” Peter sits up and shoots Gen an apologetic look. “Yeah, Lara Jean came over to help with an assignment.”

“Aw, that's so sweet.” Gen turns to Lara Jean, a not-so genuine look of admiration on her face. “You’re always so helpful LJ. Like a little dog I just wanna carry around in my purse.”

Lara Jean blinks, bewildered at her description. “Um, thanks? I think.”

An awkward silence settles, and she can see Peter steal a glance between them.  

“Yeah, you’re right. Lara Jean is small, I bet we could already do it,” Peter chimes in. He moves off the bed, a mischievous excitement in his eyes.

It takes Lara Jean a second to understand just what that look means.

“Wait...oh no, Kavinsky, don't you dare” She laughs, positioning herself as far away from him as possible.

“Come on, Covey, we gotta test the theory,” He teases, approaching slowly as if to not scare off his prey.

“Nope, nope, nope.” Lara Jean reiterates, moving again and unwittingly backing herself into a corner. She gulps.

A triumphant grin crosses his face as he realises this, too, and Peter launches forward, but quick as a flash, Lara Jean ducks under his outstretched arms and leaps across the bed. She almost barrels into Gen as she does, but she doesn't care.

Peter follows, catching Lara Jean around the waist, ready to lift her when Lucas suddenly appears in the door, startled by the scene before him.

"Lucas save me!" Lara Jean quickly sprints out of Peter’s grasp and ducks behind him, using Lucas as a shield. Breathless with laughter, she holds out her hand, palm up to stop Peter's advance.

“What is going on here?” Lucas asks, watching with bewildered amusement.

“Peter is being a giant bully,” Lara Jean laughs in answer. “Luckily, I have you to be my Knight-in-shining-armour.”

But Peter counters playfully. “We’re just testing out a theory, Covey. It’ll take five seconds. Ten tops. Your knight will see it’ll be completely harmless.”

"Nope. My help is contingent on us not testing out that theory. Take it or leave it, Kavinsky.” She tries to sound serious but it doesn't really ring true.

Peter holds up his hands in surrender. “Alright, alright,” he says through his laughter. “Let's head to the library, yeah?” He leans down to grab his book bag, moving very slowly and deliberately as he does.

Lara Jean nods, still bouncing on her toes ready to take flight, if necessary.

He walks calmly over to her and Lucas, taking a moment to nonchalantly greet his roommate, before lunging towards Lara Jean. She’s too quick for him though, anticipating the move as she darts away down the hall.

“Ha! Nice try, Kavinsky,” she sing-songs. “Thanks, Lucas!”

She can hear his voice throw a goodbye to Lucas and Gen over his shoulder as an afterthought before he chases after Lara Jean.

It doesn't take him long to catch up to her - curse him and his athletic body! - but they run like children all the way to the library before collapsing on the lawn outfront. The world is spinning as they lie next to each other catching their breath.  

Lara Jean looks over at Peter and he is beaming at her. If her cheeks weren't already flushed with heat, she'd have a serious problem on her hands right now.

“You’re the best, Lara Jean,” he says between labored breaths. “It days like this that makes it feel like we're those two little kids again, with not a care in the world.” He holds out a fist for her to bump. “Best friends for life?”  Just like he used to do back then, too. LJ had always been reluctant to reciprocate the action, thinking that it was too boyish.

“You're so lame,” she answers, rolling her eyes at him again.

“Aw, come on, say it, Lara Jean.”

She laughs but pretends to grudgingly reach out and oblige. "Best friends for life."

If there's a pang of longing to be something more, Lara Jean ignores it. It’s too confusing to feel more when Peter is spending time locked away in a room with Gen. She's trying really hard not  to over analyze what she walked into earlier, wanting to focus on their newfound friendship and the fun they have together, instead. It truly did feel like old times. She might be eighteen, but right now, in this moment she feels ten years old at heart, happy to be sharing a laugh with her best friend.

 

Chapter Text

Part 4

“You’re the greatest, Covey.”

---

“So… you’re just gonna stay home? On a Saturday night? Sounds kinda depressing, Lara Jean.

A frown creases Lara Jean's forehead as she stares at the pixelated image of her sister on her screen.

“That is way harsh, Kitty.”

“What?” Kitty asks, with a jerky but unconcerned shrug. “I just thought you’d go out more when you reached college. You know, do different things.”

“I have been doing different things! This is the first weekend I’ve stayed in since classes started, and I’ll have you know, I’m actually looking forward to a good John Hughes marathon.”

“Which you’ve seen a million times,” Kitty interjects, rolling her eyes. “What about the guy from across the hall? Why don’t you go see what he’s up to?”

Lara Jean hesitates, ducking her head instinctively and avoiding eye contact with her sister’s image even though she knows she’s on a webcam. “Um, I don’t know. I think he’s busy.”

Truth be told, all her friends seemed to busy that night. Stormy had left for the weekend to visit her cousin, Chris had a date with a guy from one of her classes, Lucas had mentioned something about a frat party, and Peter… well, Lara Jean didn’t know what Peter was doing that evening.

He’d been busy all day with some boot camp training thing for the lacrosse team, and Lara Jean had spent the majority of the day ensconced in the library, finishing a paper.

The fact that they had not hung out during the day wasn’t that strange. They were two separate people, with differing commitments and schedules, but…

For the first time in a long while, there had been no message waiting for Lara Jean when she’d returned home that afternoon.

“Well, are there any parties you could go to? I mean, I thought that’s what college is all about. Wild parties and getting drunk, or whatever,” Kitty asks. She also raises her brow at Lara Jean suggestively, like the ‘whatever’ could actually translate to something more.

But Lara Jean just shrugs. “Um, yeah, I guess, but I think I’d rather watch my movies. Have a quiet relaxed evening. It’ll be fun!” She tries to inject as much enthusiasm as she can muster into her response, but it probably doesn’t ring completely true. Her sister knows her well enough to tell when she’s lying.

Of course, this feeble attempt at an excuse earns another eyeroll. “Fine,” Kitty says exasperated. “Did you wanna come home, then? I could call Megan and postpone our sleep over.”

Lara Jean smiles, appreciating her younger sister's 'noble offer’, but shakes her head. “As tempting as your very gracious sacrifice sounds...I’d rather not seem completely ‘depressing’,” she finishes, air quotes and all.

“Well, aren’t you?” Kitty asks, but Lara Jean can tell from her tone that she’s mostly joking. Mostly.

“Still harsh, Kitty…” Lara Jean deadpans. “But thanks for the offer. I’m perfectly fine with hanging out on my own.”

“Okay, if you say so…” Kitty spins around on her chair and starts to get ready to leave for her sleepover, but then pauses. “But we’re still on for breakfast tomorrow, right? I’m expecting waffles.”

Lara Jean laughs. “Of course, you heathen.”

“Great! Then I gotta go. Enjoy your Hughesy feels.”

They sign off and Lara Jean busies herself with getting ready. Her movies are already queued up in order, starting from favorite first, and she’s already changed into her pyjamas. All that’s missing is the popcorn and her korean face masks.

As she watches the microwave timer slowly tick down, her mind inevitably wanders to where Peter might be.

Perhaps he’s still out with the team, she reasons. Doing the whole male bonding thing.

But even so, she thought Peter might have written her message (or texted) to let her know. Not that he needs to, of course. She isn’t his girlfriend, and he doesn't owe her any explanations, but well, he told her (or was with her) so often that it felt really strange not knowing.

Lara Jean can't help but wonder if this silence is significant. Like… perhaps the reason is why Gen had been uncharacteristically silent all day too.

It was very possible that they were together. And Peter hadn’t mentioned anything to spare her feelings.

Groaning loudly, Lara Jean retrieved her bowl of popcorn, slamming the microwave door a little harder than necessary and moving to flop down on her bed. She wanted to bury her face in her pillow, wanted to scrub the images of Peter and Gen ‘together’ somewhere out of her head.

She was so preoccupied with their imaginary romance playing through her mind, remembering the way Gen giggled at Peter’s jokes, or touched his arm, that when someone knocked on her door, Lara Jean shuffled to answer without much thought.

When she opens the door, her eyes go comically wide, struck with the sudden surprise of her visitor.

“Peter!”

He’s standing there in a nice green shirt and bomber jacket, hanging on his built frame like the clothes were made specifically for him. His expectant expression changes though, mirroring her surprise as his gaze travels down to take in her yummy cupcake nightgown, all the way down to her fuzzy Hufflepuff slippers.

“Whoa, that’s what you’re wearing?” he asks, raising his brow, his tone obviously torn between amusement and confusion.

Lara Jean self-consciously tugs at the hem of her nightie, really aware that this particular nightgown is probably a little too small for her - her grandma had bought it for her back in her freshman year of high school - and she had not bothered to put on tights or pyjama bottoms like she normally did when she expected to be around other people - namely Stormy, because no one else has yet been in a position to see her in her pyjamas.

“Um… yeah?” she asks back, equally confused. “I-It’s my favorite. And they’re really comfy.”

“Okay…” Peter replied slowly, nodding as if he understands, though he clearly doesn’t. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, the cupcakes are really nice and all - and the potter slippers are cute - so if that’s what you wanna wear to the party, then I have no problems with it - but…”

She blinks. Huh? “Wait. What party?” Lara Jean interrupts.

“Er, the Stevensons party? Didn’t you get my note?”

Both their heads turn to look at the completely blank whiteboard, frowns returning to their faces.

“I, um, left you a message earlier about the party at Stevenson hall.” Peter explains. “Said I’d pick you up around now?”

“Oh…” Lara Jean is still staring at the whiteboard, her head tilted to the side like she’s trying to solve a particularly difficult puzzle. “Um, no, sorry, Petter. I didn’t see it. Maybe someone in the halls thought it’d be funny to erase the message…” But even as she says it, she knows she doesn’t sound too convinced.

“Well, if you wanna go…” Her attention turns back to Peter, and she appreciates that he’s only looking at her face - and not her bare legs, or the fact that he can see the straps of her bra. “I’ll wait for you to get ready,” he says in a hopeful tone. “Or, I can change into my PJs and we can make a statement together. Though mine aren’t nearly as nice. Mostly old sweatshirts and track packs… so it might not have the same effect.”

Lara Jean laughs, subconsciously tugging at her nightie again. Why couldn’t the ground just open up and swallow her whole? For once?? “Oh, well, I was just about to watch a movie,” she begins, the instinct to retreat and bury this embarrassing moment as quickly as possible taking over. “I mean, I even have the popcorn popped and everything.”


“Yeah?” Peter takes a step inside, glancing at her laptop propped open on her bed, as if trying to see the screen. “What movie?”

“Sixteen Candles,” she replies, still just as shyly.

He pauses and meets her gaze again. “Isn’t that, like, really old? Like from the 70’s?”

“The 80’s. It’s John Hughes. He was from the 80’s.”

“80’s, right.” Peter nods. “But I bet you’ve already seen it, like, a hundred times, am I right?”

Lara Jean squints at him, predicting where he is going with this. “Maybe…” she replies slowly.

He grins at her. “Aw, come on, Covey. Come to the party with me. It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t know, Peter…” she begins, but Peter interjects.

“Please? Just for, like, an hour. If you’re not into it after an hour, we can come back and watch your Candles movie. Please?”

Lara Jean looks at Peter, his eager expression, his pleading eyes, and before she realizes it, she’s nodding, agreeing to Peter’s request. “Okay, deal. One hour.” She holds up her finger to emphasize her point, before reaching out to shake his hand. Lara Jean hasn’t been to many parties before, not even during high school. It’s just not really her thing. So she’s pretty sure Peter will be too busy having fun, and won’t even notice if she ducks out before the hour is done.

---

A short while later, Lara Jean and Peter are walking across the UVA grounds towards the party. She’s a little self conscious about what she’s wearing.

Obviously, the cupcakes and slippers have been replaced by a simple dress and jacket combo, paired with some platform boots that make her look taller and her legs look really long. Nothing too fancy, because, one, no time, and two, she wasn’t too sure what this was.

If Peter was just taking his friend to a party, she didn’t want to build up her expectations, and if he wasn’t, well… Lara Jean’s not sure her brain can handle that scenario just now.

He still smiled the same smile when he saw her, is still walking beside her like he does every day… Nothing about all this screams something more, and yet, her stomach is fluttering with butterflies as they walk.

Lara Jean is still fidgeting with her outfit when they arrive, the pounding music making her more nervous with every step. She’s midway through retying her ponytail for the fifth time when Peter looks at her with a bemused smile.

“What are you doing?” he asks, stepping towards her and reaching for her scrunchie. “Give me that.”

Before she can protest, Peter is sliding it out of her hair, letting it fall like a curtain down her back.

“Huh? No, give me that back.”

“I am keeping it,” he replies, standing firm and shaking his head, while hiding the scrunchie behind his back and out of sight. “I like your hair down.”

Lara Jean huffs disbelievingly in response, running her fingers through her hair and trying to smooth out any kinks.

“You look pretty.” Peter continues with an assertive nod. “I’ll prove it to you.” He takes the picture so quickly that Lara Jean barely has time to react, cupping her cheeks shyly. Her heart is beating so fast in her chest, she’s sure Peter must be able to hear it, even over the loud thrum of music. “See?”

Peter looks so certain, like he really believes what he’s saying, that all she can do to respond is say, “Fine,” though she still can’t quite believe him. “But you can’t lose it, okay? That’s my favorite scrunchie.”

He nods, exasperatedly, snapping the scrunchie on his wrist to indicate that it’s secure. Then he reaches out and takes her hand, beginning to drag her inside towards the party. “Leggo.”

“Wait! Maybe I should…” She begins to protest again, dragging her feet, but Peter is having none of it.

He pauses to look directly into her eyes, those golden flecks sparkling back at her. She gulps.

“Relax, Lara Jean,” he says reassuringly. “You’re gonna have fun. And if not, we’ll leave. Promise.” Her hand is still in his, and she can feel his warmth, the pad of his thumb rubbing soothing figure eight patterns on her wrist.

“Okay,” she nods again, nervously pressing her lips together.

He smiles. “Try it again one more time.”

Lara Jean can’t help but smile back. “Okay,” she repeats, more confidently this time, and Peter’s nose crinkles.

They walk into the party together, her small hand still tucked neatly in his, Peter taking the lead. He’s stopped multiple times as they wade through the throng of students, but he doesn’t let go.

---

The party is in full swing, and surprisingly, Lara Jean finds that she genuinely is having a good time. She’s watching Peter play an animated game of beer pong with Greg, and they’re losing. Badly.

“Lara Jean, darling!” A voice calls out and she turns her head to see Stormy making her way over.

“Hey! I thought you were in Williamsburg this weekend?”

Stormy rolls her eyes, and gestures to the guy following behind. “My dear cousin misunderstood the plans and ended up driving here instead. Luckily, I hadn’t gone far when he arrived. Lara Jean, it is my pleasure to introduce you to John Ambrose McLaren.”

Her gaze switches to John and Lara Jean’s first thought is just how striking he is. He handsome in a traditional way. Much like Stormy, his style looks like something straight of the 1950’s, with his blazer and hair slicked to the side, and also like Stormy, he seems very approachable.

“Nice to meet you, Lara Jean,” John says, sticking out his hand. “Edith has told me so much about you.”

Stormy hisses at John. “I’ve told you a thousand times not to call me that, Johnny.”

John laughs. “And I’ve told you a thousand times not to call me Johnny. I can say we’re pretty even.”

“Nice to meet you, too, John,” Lara Jean pipes in, returning his hand shake. “What did you two get up to today?”

“Oh, Stormy just gave me a tour of campus,” he replies with a shrug. “But I came here when I was applying for college, so I kind of already had a feel of the place.” He leans in closer, conspiratorially. “I think she just wanted an excuse to drag me around, particularly when we went to the mall ‘to buy souvenirs’, which is code for clothes. For her.”

Lara Jean laughs, and Stormy makes a show of huffing indignantly.

At that moment, Peter appears by Lara Jean’s side, and they introduce him to John. There’s a strange air to the way Peter says ‘John Ambrose’, when they shake hands, and Lara Jean can’t quite put her finger on why .  


“I’m gonna get a drink,” Peter announces a short while later. “Do you want anything?” he asks Lara Jean, but she shakes her head.

“I’ll come with you,” John chimes in, and takes an order from Stormy.

As the two head towards the drinks table, Stormy links her arm around Lara Jean and whispers. “Looks like Peter has some competition.”

This earns a confused look from Lara Jean.

“Huh?”

“My dear cousin likes you, I can tell. And so can Peter. And he definitely doesn’t like it.”

Lara Jean shakes her head. “Nah uh,” she says, feeling her cheeks grow warm. “Peter is just as friendly as he always is.”

“Mark my words, Lara Jean,” Stormy nods sagely. “You’ll see. Perhaps this is the kick up the backside that dear Mr. Kavinsky needs to get a move on. Otherwise, my cousin is supposed to be quite good with the ladies.” She shudders. “I’ve heard rumors that I really wish I hadn't.”

“Thanks for the advice, Stormy. But, no thanks.” Lara Jean could barely handle her muddled emotions for Peter. She certainly did not need to throw anyone else into the mix. “Besides…”

Their eyes travel to the girl who has just made a striking entrance in the hall, her cherry red dress wrapped tightly around her body and showing off all the right curves. As soon as Gen spots Peter near the drinks, she makes a beeline for him, and Lara Jean watches from across the room as she engages him in conversation.

Her intention is clear, and suddenly the butterflies that have been dancing around Lara Jean's stomach all night have turned to lead, a horrible sinking feeling taking its place

“Um, I’m gonna go find a bathroom,” Lara Jean says, turning her face away from the scene before her.

Stormy scowls. “No, you should march over there and stake your territory. Don’t let that little tart sink her claws into your man.”

“He’s not my man, Stormy.”

“Darling, even if that isn’t the case right this moment, he will be, he wants to be, and Genevieve is the harlot that obstacle that all great love stories must endure.”

Lara Jean shakes her head in disbelief. Peter didn’t see her that way. She was sure of it. If he did, then he would have made it more obvious tonight, perhaps treated this as a date. He had the entire walk over here to say something, but he didn’t.

But, he did say you were pretty , a voice in her head says, but Lara Jean easily pushes it aside. He was just being nice, and it was more than likely that he dragged her along to be his wingman or something, since from the looks of things, Gen definitely knew he’d be here tonight. Even if he did think she was 'pretty', Lara Jean could admit that Gen looks absolutely gorgeous. And she really didn't want to compete with that. She knew that she'd definitely come out second best in that scenario. 

She spots John making his way over to them, drinks in hand, and she uses that as an excuse to slip away. “I really need to pee,” she says to him apologetically as they pass, and she disappears down the hall.

Winding her way through the crowds, Peter and Gen left somewhere behind her, Lara Jean travels one floor up where the sounds of the party are a little more subdued.

When she does manage to find the bathroom, she’s shocked to see by who it’s already occupied.

“Chris?” she asks, rushing forward when she notices her best friend with her head in the toilet.

“LJ?”

“I thought you were on a date,” she exclaims, soothing out her hair, and checking to see what damage needs to be attended to first. Overall, it just looks like Chris has just had too much to drink. There are clumps of vomit sticking to strands of hair, and her make up is running. Perhaps the worst of it will the killer hangover she’ll have in the morning.

“I was,” Chris slurs. “But he turned out to be a jerk,” she finishes with a shrug.

“You’re not hurt, are you?” she says softly, grabbing some toilet paper to help clean up her friend, but Chris shakes her head.

“Nah, just my pride. He’d heard about some of the stuff that happened in high school, and I guess he thought I’d be easy.” She shrugs as if she doesn’t care, but Lara Jean knows that she does.

She studies her worriedly, knowing that as much as Chris pretended not to care about her reputation, there was a part of her that had hoped it wouldn’t follow her to college. She really wished there was something she could do to help Chris make that a reality. It was so ridiculously unfair that girls were shamed for something guys did regularly… but they lived in a ridiculously chauvinistic world.

“Come here,” she says gently, tugging her friend into a tight embrace, vomit hair and all.

Chris attempts to give her a grateful smile, but it quickly turns to a groan as her head reaches for the toilet once more. Lara Jean stands behind Chris, holding back her hair and rubbing soothing circles on her back, waiting for the worst to be over.

“Let me take you home,” she implores when Chris’ stomach finally seems to have settled. Chris gives her a pathetic little nod and the pair slowly make their way downstairs.

As they’re heading out the door, Lara Jean tries to look over her shoulder for Peter, wanting to let him know that she’s leaving. But she can’t see him. He’s no longer near the drinks, or near the beer pong table. After careful observation, she realises she can’t see even a flash of that bright red dress anymore.

In fact, he and Gen have disappeared somewhere, both nowhere to be seen.