The Youtube thing wasn’t meant to be that big.
It started out innocent enough, really. Lara Jean has always been a big fan of Instagram, if only to showcase her baking goods. She likes the precision that comes with food photography -- finding the best light, the best props, the best setting. If baking takes her mind off things, food photography helps her sharpen her eye for details. She can spend hours just preparing muffins then displaying them in the most delicious way. And it pays off. Her Instagram account gets fairly popular, fairly quickly, all on its own. She’s quite proud of it, to be honest.
And then Kitty gets a new camera for her birthday, and decides to make it her life’s mission to turn Lara Jean’s little side business -- she’s starting to get promo deals with some cooking brands, it’s great -- into something bigger. So, after hours of begging and argumenting and convincing, she manages to force Lara Jean to shoot their first cooking recipe and to put it on Youtube.
The production value isn’t all that great at first -- Lara Jean is awkward in front of the camera, and Kitty’s editing skills aren’t exactly that polished. Looking back, it makes for some pretty cringey videos. But it is only the beginning. Her Instagram followers start flocking to her Youtube account, people like and subscribe, and she gets more comfortable with the talking-and-showing thing. Kitty even takes a filming class during the summer, and learns so much that it quickly shows on screen.
Before either of them truly realise what is happening, it gets big.
Bigger than big.
And then Vidcon happens.
Well, Lara Jean’s third Vidcon happens, really, because she’s been twice already and it’s always been fun. Meeting fans, meeting other Youtubers she only knew through Twitter and Instagram, talking about what she does and the projects she’s working on, where the adventure will lead her next. It truly is an exhausting experience, especially for her who spends most of her time in her kitchen with nobody but her sister and her agent, Trina, but. It’s good fun, too. That’s how she met Chris, two years ago, which led to a lot of fun collab videos between her channel and Chris’ gaming channels. Lots of video-game-inspired cookies, too.
Lara Jean barely puts one foot inside her hotel’s reception hall that Chris is already barrelling at her like a wild animal, with a loud scream as she pulls her into a hug that makes Lara Jean yelp in surprise when her feet leave the floor. She returns Chris’ hug, a mouthful of dyed pink hair in her mouth -- that’s definitely new.
“I’m so happy you’re here, LJ!” Chris exclaims.
Which is always fun -- seeing Chris’ real persona, not the aloof Youtube one she puts on for a video. Chris is the queen of deadpan on the web, known for her flat-yet-deadly comments when she plays online and famous for her wit. To see the most open, bubbly side of her when the camera is not rolling is always quite the whiplash.
“I’m too!” Lara Jean replies, and means it. Chris is her only real friend in this world, instead of a business partner. “Remember Kitty, right?”
Chris steps back, if only to hug Kitty too. “Yeah, course!”
“Is it true you’re part of the Kavinsquad now?” is what Kitty chooses to start the conversation with.
Kitty is more up to date with all the Youtube politics than Lara Jean could ever be. She says it’s for research, looking at other people’s videos and taking inspiration from their style, the angles they choose, their editing process. But it’s most for the drama. Kitty lives off it, and knows everything there is to know about everyone and their brother. Which comes in handy when Lara Jean has to network; she knows who to avoid, who to be polite to, who to work with. Not particularly healthy on Kitty’s part, but definitely helpful.
Chris flips her hair back, looking more smug than she ought to be about a glorified friend group filming each other do stupid things. “Started tagging along because of Gen. She left, I definitely stayed.”
“That’s soooo cool,” Kitty replies, stars in her eyes. “Is the squad house really that big?”
Lara Jean kind of tunes them out as she goes through taking her keys from reception, being shown to their room and shoving her bags on her bed. The bedroom Trina booked for them is small but nice, just enough for crashing at the end of a long day. Based on Chris and Kitty’s animated discussion still going, it’s starting to look like they’re not going to get a lot of sleep in anyway.
“I’ll see you at the Female Youtubers and Gender Roles panel?” Chris asks, all chipper.
Lara Jean raises her head from her Instagram feed, only now realising the both of them have stopped gushing over some vlogging dude’s abs to stare at her. She blinks, once, twice, and shakes her head slightly as she puts a smile on her lips. “Yeah, of course!”
Chris doesn’t need more, giving them a lazy salute of her fingers on her temple before she goes back to her own bedroom. Lara Jean sighs deeply as she lets herself fall on her bed, not surprise in the least when Kitty comes to lie by her side. They have an hour before all the madness starts, which gives her ample time before she has to dress, put some makeup on, and otherwise look nice. The PR aspect of her job truly is exhausting.
“He’s got seventeen millions subs,” Kitty comments, holding her phone high above her head.
Lara Jean opens her eyes and turns her head to frown at her sister. “Who?”
Kitty scoffs. “Peter Kavinsky. Have you listened to anything we said?”
Lara Jean waits three full seconds, before she shakes her head. Kitty scoffs again, before shoving her phone in her face. It’s opened on Peter Kavinsky’s channel, showcasing a bragging 17.3M in the red box and a ridiculous amount of videos. He does daily vlogs, she thinks. She doesn’t really know what happens on Youtube outside of the cooking community, and the occasional beauty or fashion blogger. The dude side of Youtube is a scary place, truth be told.
“So?” Kitty echoes, a little high-pitched. “Imagine what’d happen if you were in his vlog for like, five seconds. People would come to your channel in mass.”
“Yes, because 14-year-old kids who like yelling man-boys love cooking channels.” When Kitty only offers her a deadpan stare, she sighs, “We’ll see if Chris introduces us, okay. Don’t get excited over nothing.”
Eight hours later, Kitty gets excited over a definite something .
It goes a little like this: Lara Jean starts the day with a signing session, then has lunch. Her afternoon is the panel she’s doing with Chris and a bunch of awesome female content creators, before she has a bunch of interview with a bunch of websites and news outlets. It’s exhilarating and exhausting all at once, her cheeks hurting from smiling and talking so much, her feet killing her after so many hours in heels. And then, just when she’s about to call it a day and go back to her hotel room, slip into something comfy and maybe go out for a drink later, someone comes toward her in the VIP section.
He’s familiar in a way everyone at Vidcon is -- someone she’s vaguely aware exists on Youtube, or Twitter, or Instagram. A Face she’s definitely seen somewhere, dark skin and beautiful cheekbones, but couldn’t really associate to a name if she was asked.
“Lara Jean, right?” he asks her as way of greeting, holding his hand out to her. “I’m Lucas. Chris told me I’d find you here.”
“Oh, hi,” she replies, more surprised than anything else. He must be part of the squad too, a small mirrorless camera in his jeans’ front pocket and a tripod in the back one. Vlogger, then. They always tend to have smaller equipment to run around easily. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware we were meeting here?”
“Nah, it’s fine. She said, and I quote, ‘She won’t know what’s coming but you need to force her to come to the party anyway’ so. Here I am. Kidnapping you?”
He’s almost apologetic in the way he says it, which only makes Lara Jean laugh. He looks like the kind of dude she could be friends with, definitely has that chill-and-nice vibe she goes for most of the time too. And, well, it’s Vidcon. She can indulge in a little party tonight, and rest all of next week. They have a bunch of videos scheduled anyway, the business will be fine with extended naps for a few days.
“Let me just text my sister first so she knows where to meet us,” she replies, and grabs her phone. Kitty really wanted to go to some workshop about thumbnails and clickbait, so she disappeared a while ago. “She’s my cameragirl slash editor slash person who loves to boss me around.”
Lucas laughs. “Yeah, sounds like Peter.”
She texts, Party with that guy’s squad? Meet me in hotel lobby.
Kitty replies immediately with seven shocked cat emojis.
“Mind if I change first?” she asks Lucas. “Those shoes are killing me?”
He grins and claps his hands. “Oh, let me help! I love a good makeover!”
In the end, they settle on a simple skinny-skirt-and-graphic-shirt combo, with white sneakers. Lara Jean even lets her hair down from its signature ponytail, which Lucas approves with some comment about ‘If I were into girls’ that makes her snort a little. She grabs a small handbag, just big enough for her phone, mirrorless camera and room key, before they go back downstairs to meet an over-excited Kitty in the lobby. She already knows Lucas by name, and excitedly tells him she adored his series of vlogs about Prides around the country.
Lucas leads them down the street to another hotel, then all the way up to the penthouse. Because of course they’re staying in the penthouse. Seventeen million subs could buy them the entire hotel if they put their mind to it.
The music is loud even from the hallway, and then the penthouse is a rightful mess. People dancing in the main room, chatting and laughing on the balcony, making out in every corner. Booze everywhere. Two dudes shamelessly smoking pot while sitting on a table. There’s even a dog, running from one person to another and yapping like crazy.
This is so not Lara Jean’s scene that she just backs down before even entering the room. Kitty stops her with both hands on her back and pushes her inside. “Can’t leave before you’ve said hi to Chris.
“I’ve said hi to Chris twice already!”
Lucas is cackling like a maniac as he drags them across the room. A bunch of people clap him on the back as he walks by, and he replies with a few words of greeting or a laugh, a wink. It comes so naturally to him; Lara Jean will never understand extroverts.
Thankfully, they find Chris in another room, sitting on a couch with a bunch of dudes. Once Lucas closes the door behind them it’s way more quiet -- the music still loud, but not so that you have to yell to be heard.
“Laraaaaaaaa,” Chris exclaims happy, half-standing up to grab her wrist with both her hands and pull her toward her.
Lara Jean falls on top of Chris before she manages to squeeze hersel between her friend and a guy she doesn’t know, legs half on top of Chris’s. “How drunk are you?”
“I’m not drunk. You just have a sexy twin.”
The guy next to Lara Jean chuckles loudly, and she turns her head to look at him. It doesn’t take a genius to recognise him, with his curly hair falling in front of his eyes and his merch hoodie. Peter Kavinsky himself, self-crowned king of vlogs. He flashes his dimples at her, and her heart misses a beat.
“You’re chocolat cookies girl!” he says as way of greeting. “Gabe loves to try your recipes when he’s drunk. Almost burns down the house every time.”
“It happened once! And it was an accident!” another guy yells, while everyone else bursts into laughter.
Lara Jean’s eyes move from guy to the other, watching them laughing at their private joke in confusion, before she looks back to Peter again. He winks at her, and settles a little more comfortable in the couch. There is something so casual about him, like nothing in life every bothers him -- like calling his friends out in front of stranger is just an habit, at this point.
“Anyway, some high quality content you’ve got. I’m impressed.”
“That’s all my sister’s magic,” she replies with a nod toward Kitty, who’s now playing a game of Jungle Speed with Lucas and the guy she recognises as John Ambrose. Who she may or may not have kissed during a Vidcon party last year. Gosh, talk about embarrassing yourself.
“Might have to steal her from you,” Peter jokes.
She pokes her tongue out at him, the picture of maturity, and he laughs. Then asks her how her day’s been and, before she knows it, they’re deep into a conversation about quality vs quantity, and how the algorithm is killing smaller channels, how demonetisation has affected so many of them in the past few months.
They talk and talk and talk, until the music switches to something softer and the mood changes a bit. The penthouse isn’t so crowded anymore now that it’s well into the night, and she spent it all talking nerdy with Peter Kavinsky. Huh. Unexpected.
Kitty is dozing off on a loveseat in a corner, which Lara Jean takes as her cue to go back to their own hotel room. They have a busy schedule in the morning, and all the coffee in the world will not do if they don’t have at least a few hours of peaceful sleep. So she says her goodbyes to Peter, and to Chris and Lucas, before she shakes Kitty’s shoulder and helps her up. Their walk back to their hotel room is slow but steady, and Kitty plops head first in her bed without even bothering to take her shoes or clothes off.
Lara Jean quickly gets rid of her makeup and puts on a nightgown before she hides under the blankets. She opens Instagram for her last check of the day when she sees the notification, from only six minutes ago.
p_kasinsky started following you.
Vidcon goes on faster than Lara Jean can cope with. There are more interviews and panels and signings, a Q&A, a meeting with her fans and even a photoshoot. Chris drags her to another party at the penthouse, because of course she does, and to a bar where most big Youtubers meet to have a drink. Then there’s a cooking workshop, a photo session with fans, and half a dozen more activities to keep her busy.
Lara Jean is so beat when she goes back home that she sleeps fifteen hours in a row and still feels tired when she wakes up. She has five missing calls from Trina, a couple messages asking her to call her back, and more emails than she wants to deal with. So she calls Trina.
“What did you do?” is her manager’s first question.
Lara Jean isn’t awake enough for that. “What.”
“You gained almost 8k subs overnight and it just keeps going up. What happened?”
She moves to the living room, tapping Kitty’s shoulder over the couch as she goes and moves toward the kitchen island where he laptop is waiting. “I don’t know. It always goes up after Vidcon, right?”
“Yes, but never quite like that. Anything standing out that you didn’t tell me about?”
“Not that I can remember,” she replies as she logs in to her account. And yeah, here it is. Even Kitty’s eyes widen at the obvious spike in subscribers in the last few hours. She scrambles for her phone, typing away in a fury, while Lara Jean can only stare at the screen.
“It’s Peter,” Kitty says. “He linked you in his video’s bio.”
“Oh my god, what?”
“Facetime, honey,” Trina tells her, so she does.
She points her phone at Kitty’s phone, and Kitty starts the video. It’s your usual ‘Yay Vidcon!’ vlog, with behind the scene footage and Peter joking around with his friends. There are shots of the panels, fans yelling, fans waiting in line for signings and pictures. A bunch of scenes from the parties Lara Jean attended, and it doesn’t really comes as a surprise when she appears there.
She remembers it from the second party at the penthouse, when they’d been playing beer pong with Gabe and Chris. Lucas was filming them for a bit, and that’s what made it to the vlog. Peter’s arm thrown over her shoulders, the both of them yelling when he’d taken a shot and the ball had landed straight into a cup. He’s jumping, and she has her hands on her cheeks; they look particularly cute there.
In the video’s bio, he lists the usual -- his Instagram and Twitter, link to his merch, music tracks used in the video. Then the names and channels of everyone else in the video. Including her, apparently. For a five-second shot in a six-minute video.
“Okay, I need to get hold of his manager,” Trina announces, no joke all business. “I’ll call you back later.”
“See you,” Lara Jean replies, still a little stung. She updates her statistics page on her laptop. Her subscriber number has gone up 2 more thousands already. “This is too much.”
“Wait until you read the comments,” Kitty replies.
Lara Jean chances a look her sister’s way, only to find Kitty grinning at her like the Cheshire Cat. She sighs and grabs her laptop, before she goes back to lock herself in her room, unable to deal with her sister’s teasing right now. She’d rather be alone for what can only be described as a walk of shame through the comments section.
KavinskyForLife 2 hours ago
who’s the girl with him at 3:26?????
View 13 replies v
badbeach 3 hours ago
*Gen has left the chat*
View 8 replies v
MrsKavinsky 1 hour ago
omfg is that SONG BAKERY with Peter?????? ARE THEY DATING?????
View 23 replies v
CrazyCatLady 2 hours ago
so he’s dating LJ now? I mean, I don’t mind cause Gen was a massive bitch anyway. couldn’t fucking stand her in the vlog with her negative attitude all the time. from insta diva to cute baking girl what a fucking glo up amirite??
View 35 replies v
GamingChris ✓ 1 hour ago
LIKE THIS COMMENT IF YOU THINK LARA JEAN SHOULD BE IN THE KAVINSQUAD
View 98 replies v
Lara Jean slams her laptop close.
Lara Jean rarely ever goes to Trina’s office. Trina usually comes to her house when they need to talk business or, more likely, they handle things over the phone. It always makes her feel like this whole cooking channel is more important than it is, when she has to go all the way to central LA to meet Trina. Her Gold Play Button is on display in the manager’s office, along with a couple others. Not Diamond Button, though. Sometimes, Lara Jean dreams about getting one of those, too.
Peter has a Diamond Button. Peter is also sitting next to her, along with his own manager. Discussing business arrangement. Discussing a contract that is so ridiculous Lara Jean wanted to laugh about it when Trina explained it the first time around. But it sounds serious, and Lara Jean isn’t laughing so much anymore.
“So we are talking one collab every month and a half on Lara Jean’s channel, and two appearance every fortnight on Peter’s,” Trina outlines after half an hour of discussion of agreed terms. “As well as five pictures each per month on Instagram.”
“Sounds perfect to me,” Peter’s manager agrees.
Because that is Lara Jean’s life now. Drafting a contract not just for a collaboration with Peter, but for a fake dating arrangement between the two of them. And, look, Lara Jean is not stupid; she gets it. Lots of celebrities date for PR, and she even knows a Youtuber or two who had sketchy relationships for views. She just never really thought she would be one of those people, though.
“What about the content, though?” Peter asks. He looks so serious, so unlike the boy she partied with only a week ago. “How far do we go in the whole pretending schtick?”
“Well, Lara Jean’s channel is PG,” Trina starts slowly, thinking as she goes, “So going a little too rowdy would not fit her audience…”
“No kissing,” Lara Jean chimes in.
Peter’s eyes widen. “How are we supposed to sell it if I can’t kiss you?”
“Plenty of couples don’t kiss on camera. MatPat and Stephanie don’t, and they have a kid. David and Liza didn’t…”
“Woah, woah, woah, too soon,” he stops her, with a smile. “Okay, we’ll keep the PDA to a minimum. It will draw comments, though.”
“Maybe I remind you we’re doing this to soften your image?” his manager adds. “The whole point is for people to notice.”
That’s where Lara Jean is lost, to be quite honest. She understands how beneficial it will be to her channel -- they’re already predicting her reaching three millions by the end of the month. But for Peter? They keep talking about his image, which apparently hasn’t been so good since his breakup with Gen, Instagram model and Chris’ cousin. Something about a nasty breakup followed by a video from Gen making some very accusatory comments.
Not to mention the many scandals happening all over Youtube with squads not unlike Peter’s.
So, that’s where Lara Jean is needed. Good and nice by association. Put Peter next to a cute, well-behaved girlfriend to put him in a new light, to make people forget about the Gen scandal and the bad rep that followed. It makes sense, on an intellectual level. Lara Jean isn’t all that certain that she’s the best person for the task, though.
“How long do we have to do it?” she asks.
A very important question, after all.
“For now, we’ll keep going on until Christmas,” Trina replies, smooth as ever. “Then we’ll meet again, see the results, and reassess.”
Lara Jean nods, lips drawn into a fine line. She’s done collabs before. She’s been on Chris’ livestreams before. And she is used to Instagram sponsored posts too. When you come to think about it, this is not so different. One day of shooting for her video every few weeks. Only a few seconds in his vlogs once in a while. Pseudo-candid pictures. It’s all just acting, no feelings attached. She can do that.
“I want a ‘boyfriend does my makeup’ video,” she decides as she turns toward Peter.
He blanches, just a little. But then he grins, too, and holds up his hand for her to shake. “You’ll regret it, but agreed.”
His fingers are warm against her skin, but not as warm as Trina’s grin. Lara Jean already sees dollar signs in her manager’s eyes.
If you go back Lara Jean’s channel, the first videos were shot in her family kitchen, the video shaking with Kitty and the only light coming from the large windows. Before any of them knew about tripods, light panels, or reflectors.
When they made it -- truly, properly, ‘pay the bills and then more’ made it -- Lara Jean wanted to buy a house for their father. He refused. Moving out, selling the house where their mother had lived, was always out of the question. It was love that kept him single all those years, and sentimentality that had him kept the house.
So instead Lara Jean and Kitty moved to Los Angeles, to a house so big the rooms echoed from the lack of furniture, and a kitchen so perfect it kickstart so many new projects in Lara Jean’s mind. Her video schedule is solid now; a new recipe on Tuesdays, a cooking tutorial or tip on Thursdays. The occasional slice-of-life video when something interesting happens, which is not all that often.
The kitchen is less a kitchen and more a filming studio, and Peter looks definitely impressed when he first steps in. The tension leaves his shoulders when Lara Jean steps on the box that makes her a little bit taller for the camera, though, and by the time she’s done explaining how everything works and each step of the video to him, he’s far more relaxed.
(He even colour-coordinated his shirt to her outfit, which nobody will fail to notice.)
Kitty switches on the camera and checks the white balance, before she gives them the thumb up. Lara Jean sighs as she closes her eyes, before her camera-ready smile settles on her lips.
“Hello everyone! Today is a special video as you can see, because we have….” She raises her hands toward Peter as if to fram the upper half of his body, and he grins at her in reply. “Peter joining us to cook with us. I asked him what he wanted to bake and his answer was…”
He immediately leans closer to the camera and exclaims, “Fruitcake cookies!”
Lara Jean wrinkles her nose a little. “Because there’s not account for bad taste, right?”
He turns toward her then, leaning into her personal space with his bottom lip tucked between his teeth. The flirty thing is so convincing that she holds her breath a little, letting it out in a shaking giggle when he replies, “I’ll have you know I have amazing taste.”
It’s all just faking, she reminds herself as she pushes him away a little, before she moves around the kitchen to get all the ingredients ready for the next take. Peter tries to help but she shooes him away -- there’s an order to those things, and she will only be satisfied if it’s done just the way she likes it.
It gets easier after that. The banter and flirting is still all over the place, but Peter is such a disaster when it comes to cookie that she spends more energy on making sure he doesn’t turn her kitchen into a war zone, and less on letting her anxieties run wild. They have to do so many retakes that they almost run out of flour -- half of it ends up in her hair, for some unknown reason.
It takes longer than one of normal videos would, but they manage to get all their footage in one day, with only a small break for lunch and Kitty ordering pizza. By the time of the final reveal, the kitchen does kinda look like a war zone anyway, so they waste half an hour cleaning to make it look somewhat presentable.
“So here we are,” she smiles at the camera and claps her hands, before Peter dramatically lifts the silver cloche to reveals a pile of cookies, “Homemade fruitcake cookies!”
“And don’t they look perfect!” he adds for emphasis.
She bumps her shoulder against his with a grin. “They do look good but I’m not sure they can taste good, even made by me.”
“You’re such a snob,” he gasps at her, before focusing back on the camera, “Guys, don’t listen to her, fruitcake cookies are amazing and underrated and you should try them out!”
They bicker a little bit more, then taste the cookies -- not as bad as she made it out to be, but still not to her taste -- and do the usual outtro with a reminder of all the links in the description, and don’t forget to subscribe and hit that bell.
Peter is still shoving cookies in his mouth once they stop recording, and Kitty bursts into laughter. “You’re the worst,” she comments. “Even Chris was, like, decent at it.”
“They’re really good,” he manages to say around a mouthful.
Lara Jean grins. “Who are you trying to convince here?”
But truth be told, she had fun today. Peter really is a nice guy with a good sense of humour, despite what the over-the-top talking-extra-loud videos will have you believe. He’s charming and quick-witted, able to hold a decent conversation, and not looking down at her channel’s content and aesthetic for being too girly. He even puts some music on his phone and helps with the cleaning, putting everything in the dishwasher while she wipes the counters.
It’s awfully domestic, especially since Kitty has run to the edit room to work on the raw footage, leaving them alone in the kitchen. Lara Jean has never been really big on dating, too busy working on her channel to really take the time, but she imagines that it would look like that. Two people simply enjoying each other’s company, simple and easy.
“So when is the video gonna be ready?” he asks as he closes the dishwasher.
“I mean, she’ll probably put an all-nighter because that’s her thing, so it should be good in the morning,” Lara Jean explains. She drops the sponge in the sink before wiping her hands so she can grab a cookie, only to make a face at the first bite. Still no. “But I’ll move my posting schedule around so it’s up and running next week.”
“Good.” He leans against the kitchen island, hands grabbing the edge. It does things to his arms she’d rather not think about. “Gives us some time to introduce our relationship in the vlog.”
“Oh.” She pauses, and looks down. There’s flour all over her floor too, and it looks like Winter Wonderland down there. “How scripted is it going to be?”
She knows most vlogging channels like his are way more planned and scripted than they look, to appeal to their audience and offer interesting content. Lara Jean just isn’t certain how good of an actress she is compared to the people in his squad, how easily she will fit in there when she needs to film with him.
“Depends, really. Most of the pranks, that’s improv to get a genuine reaction out of the dudes. But mostly everything else is planned in advance and rehearsed a little. Makes it flow better and more naturally, ironically.”
“So,” she pauses again and bites her lip, “If something is too much or…”
“Yeah, you can say no to anything, I won’t take it the wrong way. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable or do something you don’t like. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone.”
She sighs in relief. A quick view of his channels, and what his ex girlfriend used to do on the camera, had scared her a little. There was a lot of cleavage involved, which she has absolutely no problem when it’s other girls doing it. Not for her, though.
“Tell you what,” he goes on. “We’re filming tomorrow so you can just drop by and play some Mario Kart with Chris or something, and that’s it. Ease you into it little by little.”
“Sounds good, yes.” She nods a little, letting silence stretch between them. “Today was nice.”
He laughs, and it sounds pretty and kind. “Yeah, it was a nice change. And fun, definitely.”
He leaves not soon after, yelling his goodbye at Kitty who echoes it from across the room, and stealing the last cookies off the plate. Lara Jean doesn’t realise she’s still staring at the door for a while, then shakes herself out of it. He’s long gone once she remembers she hasn’t taken any pictures of the cookies for Instagram, and then it’s too late.
Peter texts her his address in the morning.
He simply forgets to mention he lives in a damn mansion. Which, okay, makes sense when you remember he’s one of the biggest Youtubers today, and he shares the place with half a dozen people. And that same place is also his working place. But, still, Lara Jean does a double take when her GPS tells her she’s arrived to her destination, because it can’t be right.
The kiddy pool in the front yard and the half broken basketball hoop helps a little, though.
Shooting goes exactly as Peter had explained the previous day. She’d quickly baked a tray of chocolate brownies at night, not to arrive empty-handed, and Gabe grabs the box from her before she can even explains anything, claiming loud and proud in front of Peter’s camera that “This one is a keeper, Peter! You’ve outdone yourself, bro!” Which will do, as far as relationship announcements go.
She soon finds herself playing Portal with Chris, which is a lot of fun. But playing video games with Chris is always fun, even though Lara Jean is always terrible at all of them. At least she’s participating, and Chris laughs a lot at how inept she is with a controller, and Peter films a bit of it with a grin on his face.
Then Lucas is showing her around the house while the other guys are doing some weird stuff in the garden, before John Ambrose orders Chinese for everyone. They gather in the living room to eat, Lara Jean sitting on one couch with Peter at her feet, leaning against her legs. Chris snaps a pictures and sends it to him, and he tinkers around with it a little bit before asking for her approval, and then it’s Instagram official.
She spends the rest of the day with Chris and Lucas, watching some crappy show on Netflix in Lucas’ room and laughing way too much, until Peter comes looking for her. He grabs her hand as he drags her along until he finds an empty room. Or perhaps it’s just his bedroom, but she’s not brave enough to ask, to confirm the implications for his audience of being there with him and his camera.
“You mind doing my outtro with me?” he asks, puppy eyes and all.
It would be heartless of her to say no. So, “Yeah, of course.”
He grins and bounces on the balls of his feet a little, before wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He’s so tall she finds herself pressed against his chest, but Lara Jean can’t say that she minds. Not when he’s so warm and solid against her, a comforting presence by his side.
“Oh wait,” she stops him before he hits the record button. “Do you want some footage that will make people go ‘awww the way she looks at him’?”
He pauses, surprise obvious in his eyes before he grins down at her, and presses a quick kiss to her forehead. “You’re awesome.”
And it’s not all that hard, looking up at him all cute and adorable, when he’s been so nice to her for two days in a row, attentive and careful. She smiles a little, hoping it’s not too much. People will eat that up anyway, but she’d rather not make it too obvious when they’ve officially only started dating a few days ago.
“And that’s it for today’s vlog, guys! I hope you enjoyed and if you did, smash that like button and make sure you subscribe! Also I’m here with Lara Jean so make sure to check her channel, cause something amazing is coming your way really soon.”
“Spoilers,” she chimes in with what she hopes to be a teasing smirk, “Peter has terrible taste in cookies.”
“I have amazing taste in cookies, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about!” He laughs, just a little. “See you guys on Friday, ciao!” He switches off the camera before turning to her, “Not letting me live it down?”
“Never,” she grins.
“I mean, it’s okay to have bad taste.”
And perhaps it’s being around his squad all day, or perhaps it’s a testament of how comfortable she is around Peter, but she finds herself replying, “Yeah, you should see my boyfriend.”
His face alone is priceless, but she bursts into laughter when he says, “Wait, wait, wait, hold on, say that again on camera!”
Fake-dating Peter Kavinsky turns out to be way easier than Lara Jean had believe at first. She brainstorms easy, beginner recipes for him to try on camera, playing off the Ratatouille ‘Everyone can cook!’ idea to show her audience they don’t have to all be Gordon Ramsey to bake something nice. Peter gets a little bit better at it, even though he can never remember the right terminology for anything. And he’s so weirdly fascinated when she explains that her main sponsors are actually clothing brands, because people always want to know what she’s wearing in her videos.
And filming at his house is always an adventure of its own. She’s thrown into the swimming pool more times than she ought to be, learns to shoot a paintball gun and runs around the house chasing Gabe, lip-sync to songs in the drive-thru at least once a week. By the end of the first month, she’s so used to Peter’s camera in her face that she forgets to be shy around it. Especially since the squad loves her and adopts her fairly quickly, and she’s comfortable around them even when they’re messing around. It helps that it allows her to spend more time with Chris too, the two of them planning a new collab for the following month.
And, obviously, the whole thing is working nicely for her numbers. Her channel has never been that popular before, and her video with Peter finds its way to the Trending page only an hour after she posts it. She reaches a new Instagram milestone too, which means more time filtering troll comments but also more blushing at reading adorable and supportive comments. All in all, Peter’s audience seems to like her, she thinks.
CovinskyIsLove 2 hours ago
omfg the way she keeps looking at him in the outtros my heart can’t fucking take it guys!!!!!
View 5 replies v
BananaManana 5 hours ago
Anyone noticed how much more relaxed Peter is now? Like, I don’t want to catfight or shit, but he never really looked happy with Gen? It’s so nice to see him acting like himself again!
View 12 replies v
SapphoBitch 4 hours ago
guys i’m living for all that LJxChris content finally the positive female relationship we deserves on the kavinsquad!!!
View 8 replies v
MrsKavinsky 1 hours ago
LJ’s look of horror at 1:26 oh you sweet summer child you cinnamon roll too beautiful too pure
View 19 replies v
HELLO EVERYONE AND WELCOME BACK TO MY CHANNEL!
Okay I have to say the response to the first chapter was overwhelming to say the least. I seriously didn't expect to get so much love out of this, so thank you very really very much! I usually try to reply to every comment I get on multichapters, but I got 45 of them /in one night/ and my anxieties kicked in, so don't be mad! I'm not ignoring you! I love you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
If Lara Jean really, truly is being honest with herself, she enjoys being part of a squad. Content making has been only Kitty and her for so long, starting when they were barely more than teenagers, that Lara Jean never managed to make long-lasting friendships. She was always envious of those Youtube squads, despite the nasty rumours going around about some of them, especially in moment when she was feeling lonely.
She couldn’t live in the mansion with them all, and not just because Gabe eats her cookie dough raw every time he’s around, but she’s come to really love having a tight group of friends. People who help her and support her, people who believe in what she does to the point of promoting her content to their followers too.
Which, of course, means drama comes slapping her in the face when she least expects it.
Peter drags her along to a party, because he claims nobody will believe they’re actually dating if they never show themselves together outside of the vlog house. As far as arguments go, it’s a fairly weak one but Lara Jean is feeling adventurous, and Chris and Lucas promised they would be there too. If anything else, she can beg them to bring her home while Peter is busy partying somewhere else.
He shows up at her house with his flashy car, not the family van he usually drives, so Lara Jean’s suspicions switch on immediately. She waits until they’re on the main before she asks, “She’ll be there tonight, right?”
She doesn’t have to clarify who she is – they’ve kept her name unsaid for months now, but people keep mentioning her in the comments, comparing her to Lara Jean, commenting on how much more relaxed everyone, and especially Chris, is now that she’s gone. She’s like a ghost following them all around the mansion, her presence known but ignored until tonight.
Peter sighs, loudly. “Yeah, she will.”
Lara Jean looks at the car she’s sitting in, at Peter’s hair combed back, at her own outfit. She should have seen this coming, and yet she can’t stop the knot from forming inside her stomach as realisation dawns on her. “Are you trying to make her jealous?”
“What?! How? What? No!” A pregnant pause. “A little?”
He cringes as he says it, which is way cuter than it ought to be. She wants to be upset at him for so very obviously using her like that, but then again. Their entire relationship is based on using each other to get something out of their couple.
“Not jealous in a ‘fight to get me back’ way,” he clarifies. “More ‘look what you gave up on and how much better off I am without you,’ if that makes sense?”
“Are you?” she asks. “Happier?”
“I mean, I get fresh cookies every day so…” His sentence finishes in a bark of laughter when she punches his shoulder as hard as she can. He rubs it with one hand, the other still on the wheel. “Yeah, I am. I loved her but she was… We weren’t good for each other. It wasn’t healthy.”
“Good on you to admit it.”
“Only admitting it after she cheated on me and blamed me for it, so not sure how good it is but you know…” He sighs. “At least Chris isn’t so cranky all the time anymore.”
Lara Jean knows deflection when she hears it, so she takes the bait and starts talking about Chris’ latest videos and how well received her collab with Gabe was. Their conversation gets a little less tense from there, and they even have fun brainstorming ideas for the vlog by the time Peter parks in front of a mansion even bigger than his.
The party is already in full swing, but Peter stops her in the entrance hall, pulling on her hand for her to turn toward him.
“No baking tonight,” he tells her as he reaches for the crunchie holding her hair up into a ponytail. “I like you better with your hair down anyway.”
“Well if you like me better with my hair down…”
“Damn, Covey! Only a few weeks with us and you’re already so full of snark. Definitely not a good influence on you.”
She pokes her tongue out at him, and Peter chuckles even as he runs his fingers through her hair to tame it and make it pretty. He’s so much closer than she’s used to – close enough for her to admire the gold speckles in his eyes and the light freckles on his nose. She wonders how many people get to be so intimate with him, instead of just looking at him through the lens of a camera.
She doesn’t wonder why her heart beats faster.
“Peter?” she asks, just when he’s taking her hand again, ready to pull her toward the party. He pauses and raises his eyebrows in a silent question. “No PDA rule tonight.”
He grins, and pulls on her hand.
This isn’t so different from any other party she’s attended with Peter. Gabe has already set a beer pong table and is convincing a pair of girls to play against Chris and him. Lucas is flirting with a white boy on the couch. John Ambrose has half a dozen girls around him, giggling at everything he says.
Lara Jean naturally gravitates toward Chris once Peter has disappeared to get them some drinks. Chris hugs her in greeting, before she starts throwing the ping pong ball and catching it with one hand.
“The Wicked Bitch of the West is here,” she says with a nod to the other side of the room. “Hide your man.”
Lara Jean tries not to be too obvious about it when she walks around the table to sit on a couch’s armrest, which gives her a good view of both the game and Gen. She stands in a corner talking to a brunette, all sparkly dress and perfect hair. Lara Jean can’t help but notice her face looks very different in person, though, a tell that she uses a little too much Facetune on her pictures. But then again, which Instagram mode doesn’t?
Gen must feel her stare, for she turns her head and stares right back at Lara Jean, just in time to see Peter sliding next to her. He bumps Lara Jean’s shoulder with an easy grin before he hands her a red solo cup.
“Terribly,” she replies with a grin of her own. He was right earlier; she definitely got more sarcastic from spending time with the squad.
She takes a sip of her beer, only to immediately spit it back in the cup with a grimace of disgust. “That beer is stale!”
“Oh no, that’s mine,” he corrects before switching their cups. “It’s kombucha.”
“It’s good for digestion. And I’m your ride tonight, remember?”
The admission that he’s not drinking takes her by surprise and, let’s be honest, charms her a little. They’ve all been drinking into torpor at least once a week since she joined the squad, either at the vlog house or a local bar. But they would always Uber to the bar and forth, so nobody had to drink. For him to go dry means more than Lara Jean would have believe at first.
“You could at least get something tasty,” she points out.
“Didn’t we establish I have bad taste?” he jokes back.
She wrinkles her nose at him, just to make him laugh. Peter has a great laugh; she loves to hear it, to see the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. It’s such a good look on him.
“Vlog house’s gonna be busy,” Chris announces as she joins them on the couch. She points to Lucas, still heavily flirting with the white guy from before, his hand high on the guy’s thigh. Then to Gabe, deep in conversation with one of the beer pong girls. Then John Ambrose, still surrounded by a small army of girls. Chris makes a face. “Can I crash at yours, LJ?”
“Guest room is yours,” she replies easily.
“What if I want to crash at your place?” Peter pouts, adding puppy eyes for emphasis.
She knows that in all logic he would be sleeping in her bed. They’ve been dating long enough that everyone believes they’re intimate, which makes sense. She’s been watching his older videos, and he and Gen never were shy about the physical aspect of their relationship.
Still, she runs her tongue before she can think better of it. “You can have the couch.”
Peter and Chris offer her equally baffled looks, albeit for very different reasons. Chris whistles under her breath, as if to react to some massive drama just about to happen. If only she knew that, no, it’s just Lara Jean who messed up without meaning to.
“You still made about yesterday?” Peter asks, innocent enough.
Bless his heart for giving her an out, though, bringing back the prank that turned bad yesterday, when he’d tried to scare John Ambrose. John has slipped and fell down the swimming pool, his head missing the edge by only a few inches. Lara Jean’s shriek had been so deafening it had scared them all even more, and then she’d lectured Peter for five minutes straight. Even Gabe had looked guilty after that.
“Depends,” she replies, before she nods toward one girl across the room. “Find me a slice of that pizza and I’ll reconsider.”
His grin is a little dopey as he shoves his solo cup in her hand to stand up. It’s a good thing only Chris sees that happen, because the guys would never let him live it down.
(He was hugging her from behind last week, one arm against her collarbones, as she was standing at the kitchen island to check her emails on her laptop. Whispering nonsense in her ear just to distract her and to make her laugh. She knew at least one of the guys was filming somewhere, and that they might be caught on camera.
But she didn’t expect Gabe to barge into the kitchen, camera in hand, and to open the fridge to grab something. He held a can next to Peter’s head, already chuckling at his own joke.
“Pete, hey, Pete! What’s the difference between you and that can of cream?” Peter only replied with a deadpan stare. “None, cause y’all so WHIPPED!”
And then Gabe ran for his life. Peter whispered a simple “Be right back,” in Lara Jean’s ear, before dashing after his best friend. Ten seconds were all he needed before Gabe’s scream of horror filled the house.)
She follows him with her eyes as he makes his way to the kitchen in search of a fresh, untouched slice of pizza, and so she doesn’t miss how Gen corners him the moment he’s left alone. He’s got one pizza box opened, paper plate in hand, and he looks like a deer in the highlights when he sees his ex by his side.
“You should do something,” Chris comments.
“Nah, he’s fine.”
She trusts him, and not just because of the contract. From the way he was talking in the car, he needs to confront Gen one more time, to do this for himself.
Lucas plops on the couch next to them just when Gen engages Peter in a tense and awkward conversation, and Lara Jean’s attention is redirected toward her friend. It’s not as if she can hear anything that is said from across the room anyway.
“Abandoned pretty boy so soon?” Chris teases him.
Lucas shrugs, before he grabs the solo cup from Lara Jean’s hand. “Turns out he has a boyfriend. Disappointing.” He takes a sniff of his newly-acquired drink and makes a face. “That smells nasty.”
“It’s kombucha,” Lara Jean says. “Fermented tea.”
“Sounds as nasty as it smells,” Lucas replies, still looking down the cup.
“I’ll give you $500 to drink all of it,” Chris chimes in, getting her camera out of the pocket of her hoodie. It’s exactly why she fits in perfectly with the squad, despite being the only girl before Lara Jean arrived. She has the same sick mentality about it.
And truth is – Lara Jean is starting to develop a bit of that mentality too. “Come on, do it,” she goads him with a sweet smile.
He makes a face and sniffs the drink again. “I really need the money,” he comments.
“Lara Jean!” Her head immediately turns at the sound of her name, if only to find Peter standing in front of her. No pizza but a frazzled look on his features. “Let’s get out of there.”
Lucas is looking at them above the rim of the solo cup, half-hopeful about being saved from the situation. Lara Jean is barely aware of Chris teasing him as she stands up and walks toward Peter.
He wraps a solid arm around her waist, pulling her right against his chest. And then he’s kissing her. Hard and fast, too quick for her to react or even think about enjoying it. It’s over before it even started, and then he’s pulling on her hand and dragging her toward the exit.
She follows without question, all too aware of the way he purposely doesn’t look back. Or doesn’t say anything, the silence between them tense and awkward as he drives away from the house and down the empty streets of LA.
She has no idea where they are going, but soon the streets around them are a little less rich suburbia, a little more hipsterish mess, until he parks next to what appears to be an old dinner.
It’s empty – too late for a coffee date, too early for a post-party refuel – and Peter chooses the booth just next to the vintage jukebox. She slides next to him instead of opposite him, and nods at the old machine with a nudge to his shoulder.
“Seven What’s New, Pussycat and one It’s Not Unusual?” she asks innocently.
Peter snorts a laugh despite his lips pressed into a thin line, some of the tension in his shoulders disappearing at her reference. By the time the waitress shows up at their table to take their order, he’s almost back to his usual self again.
Lara Jean doesn’t mention the insta elephant in the room. If he wants to talk about it he will, but she will not force him into a conversation before he’s ready. Instead she decides on another topic altogether.
“Kitty wants to go to film school.”
It’s something she’s been discussing for a little while now. She jumped straight from high school into this job, but she’s yearning for more now, for something else and different. Lara Jean can’t really blame her – her sister is so talented and has so much potential for greatness – but she can’t help but be a little bit selfish about it.
“I can’t do the videos without her,” she admits. “I have never edited anything in my life.”
“You could be outsourcing.”
She shakes her head, an outright refusal. “I don’t trust anyone to do it beside her.”
“Because you haven’t worked with anyone else,” Peter points out. “Hire an intern and have Kitty teach them everything she knows. The exact way she edits your videos. So you start with the same skills, but a new point of view. Can’t be all that bad.”
She nibbles on her bottom lip. She’s never thought about it that way, but it doesn’t sound too bad. And Kitty would love to have someone to boss around, someone to brag to about her skills. And then Lara Jean would have a whole new person on her payroll, which is terrifying. She’s been pushing back getting an assistant for so long because she’s afraid of having someone who is not Kitty rely on her for a paycheck.
“What about once Kitty is done?”
“You, me, Chris, Lucas, Gabe, John,” Peter counts on his fingers. “That’s six Youtubers in our group who could do with some editing help. We’ll manage.”
She can’t help but grin, even before she understands the underlying meaning behind his idea. “Am I officially part of the Kazinsquad?” she teases.
Peter’s gaze is too deep, too intense, when their eyes meet. It says things she doesn’t want to hear, to acknowledge. “You’re not getting rid of us so easily, Covey. Fake dating or not, you’re part of the family now. You’re here to stay.”
She looks down at her hands in her lap, so her hair will fall in front of her face and hides her blush. She didn’t expect him to be so candid about it, or herself to get so emotional over it. He talks about family like they’ve been friends forever, instead of only a few weeks. Like he will stick by her side even once the contract is over. She doesn’t quite know what to think of it.
Thankfully the waitress chooses that moment to come back with their orders, and Lara Jean distracts herself with her pile of pancakes long enough to forget about her own awkwardness.
Once she’s ready to face Peter again, his phone is lighting up like a Christmas tree when it lays on the table. He sighs, deep and loud, and flips the phone over to hide the screen.
“She’s blowing up my notifications.”
“I guess it wasn’t a clean goodbye then?” He only gives her A Look, with capital letters and a trademark. “You could block her.”
Peter’s laugh is humourless. “Yeah, I’m not doing that. It’s going to end in a five-minute rant in her Insta stories about how much of an asshole I am to her. Again. I’m done with this shit.”
Lara Jean offers him a tight-lipped smile, her hand finding his under the table. Their fingers link together as Peter raises both their hands above the table to lay there between them. The ring Margot gave her for her birthday shines softly in the neon lights of the dinner. Lara Jean makes up her mind faster than she would have expected of herself, given the circumstances.
“Open Instagram,” she tells him. When Peter only reacts with a confused look, she adds, “We’ll give her a taste of her own medicine.”
Which is petty and low, maybe, but Lara Jean is tired of it. Tired of Peter’s kicked puppy look and the hold Gen still has on him. Tired of this fake dating business working on everyone else but her, tired, and tired and tired.
So she snaps a picture of her own, of their hands, with Peter’s milkshake in the background. It takes a few flirters to make it look nice despite the aggressive lights, and then she posts it to her stories, no tag, no comments. Just the simplicity of an intimate moment caught on camera, a snapshot of a cute late-night date.
Peter is smiling now, finally catching up with her act. He raises his own phone to snap a selfie, the cutest thing ever – their shoulders pressed against each other as she kisses his cheek and he makes a proud-yet-amused face to the camera. It looks so incredibly realistic that it takes Lara Jean’s breath away, just a little.
That is, until she reads the caption he’s writing down. “‘Bae’? You’re such a dork!”
He blows a kiss her way, before bursting into laughter.
Peter becomes a fixture in her life soon enough.
Even if the contract only stipulates one vlog appearance per week, Lara Jean finds herself at the vlog house on most filming days, if only because it’s fun. She doesn’t always participate in the more elaborate jokes and pranks, but she likes to witness it all happen in front of her eyes. The difference between real life and what actually makes it to the vlog fascinates her more than she can put into words.
Any other day, she works on her own channel, testing and prepping recipes when she's not actually filming, workshopping new ideas with Kitty, talking brand deals and sponsor agreements with Trina. It’s long, hard work, always has been. But she loves it, loves to spend most of her time in the kitchen to experiment on new recipes to make them perfect, to try stuff she finds on Pinterest, or just to improve some of her classics.
Peter has an habit of showing up to her house when she’s working now. He doesn’t really bother her in the kitchen – always first in line to taste anything, though – and for the most part he’s happy just chilling and editing in a corner, or napping in her living room. She’s gotten used to his mop of curly hair popping from the side of the sofa, or his long legs stretching in front of him when he sits on the kitchen floor. More than one time he ends up with flour in his hair, too busy working on his vlog to notice. Those make for amazing Insta stories.
It is one such day, Kitty sitting on the kitchen island to edit, Peter napping in another room, and Lara Jean practicing a mirror cake for a Halloween recipe. Those are far from her favourite, but they’re damn clickbaity and popular on the internet. Everything for the views, or something.
“I’m just saying, Gabe is totally down to take care of it when we go to Korea.”
It’s an old argument – Kitty has wanted a puppy since she was about six. Arguments against were fairly easy when they were still living in the family house, what with both dad and Margot allergic to dogs. But time has past and they have their own house now, in a whole different state. It’s getting harder and harder to find arguments against having a dog, to the point where Lara Jean doesn’t even know why she still fights her sister about it. Old habits, and all that.
“Gabe? Gabe Rivera? The guy who can’t even remember to feed himself most days? That Gabe?”
“You’re so mean!” Kitty grabs a chocolate chip and throws it at her, but Lara Jean dodges easily. “And okay, maybe not Gabe. But we can afford to put it in a puppy hotel now. I heard they have some great ones in Downtown LA. Come on, Lara Jean!”
Kitty gives her the face, with the teary eyes and pouty lip. It used to work as a little girl, and Kitty knows it. As a twenty-something girl, though, it has lost some of its childish charm and is not as effective as it used to be.
“What is she saying no to?” Peter asks as he slides his way into the kitchen.
His hair is all over the place and his eyes still heavy with sleep, which is a very powerful combo. Lara Jean’s heart does a weird flip-floppy thing, before it stops beating altogether as Peter comes behind her to wrap his arms around her waist and hide his face in her neck. She swears he presses a kiss against her skin there, but it might as well be her mind make things up – hard to know, when she’s forgotten how to breath.
“She doesn’t want me to get a puppy,” Kitty replies immediately, all awkwardness ignored in the face of getting what she wants. “Which isn’t fair at all!”
Peter looks at Kitty from above Lara Jean’s shoulder, refusing to let got of her. He’s warm and solid against her back, so she lets herself lean into him, just a little bit. Might as well take advantage of a human pillow while she can; she’s spent hours on her feet today, she deserves it.
“What kind of a dog?”
“A Japanese Akita!”
“It’s like, a big Shiba,” Lara Jean adds for clarity.
She doesn’t need to look at Peter to literally hear the wheels turning in his head. He doesn’t stand up straighter or anything, doesn’t even really show interest in that little fact but. She knows how he’s wired. She can even read the clickbait vlog title from there.
SURPRISING MY GIRLFRIEND’S SISTER WITH A SHIBA PUPPY!!
Two million views in the first week, and the very least. A bit more if he picks the right thumbnail or if Kitty starts crying. Which might actually happen, because she’s wanted a puppy for so long, has begged for it for most of her life. And, yes, her baby sister deserves something nice, a little companion to follow her everywhere and all adorably distract her from editing videos until 4am every night. She deserves the world, really.
Peter keeps trading questions and answers with Kitty, obviously to gather more information – would she like a girl puppy or a boy puppy, does she have an idea for a name, which cool tricks she would teach it. Kitty answers happily, glad that someone is actually interested in her puppy story for once.
She does have a weird look on her face when Lara Jean feeds Peter a big chocolate chip, though, and he hums happily before snuggling a little tighter against her. At least her cake is in the oven for half an hour, so he doesn’t distract her from delicate piping work or something of the like.
He does distract her a lot in general, though.
It’s another hour before he decides to go back to his own place – no doubt to look up Shiba breeders in California. Kitty follows him to the door and waves her goodbye at him while Lara Jean finishes cleaning up the kitchen.
When Kitty comes back, it’s with her phone in her hand, already dialing Margot. It’s the middle of the night in London, but who even cares when your name is Catherine Song-Covey.
“Kitty, what the hell?” comes Margot’s sleepy voice.
“Lara Jean’s fake boyfriend wants to be her real boyfriend.”
Suddenly, Margot is awake.
Suddenly, Lara Jean wants to die.
Of all the people in the house, John Ambrose is the one Lara Jean spends the less time with. Which might not be fair on him, since he’s always so nice and gentle in everything he does and says, since he’s welcomed her without second thought when she first joined the group, since he’s one of the best people she knows.
But every time she looks at him, she remembers Vidcon, and being drunk and kissing him just because. Lara Jean knows, on an intellectual level, that it’s okay. People kiss other people all the time at parties, and that’s the end of it. But it’s not who she is, and she feels uncomfortable with herself every time John Ambrose is around, the the point of almost avoiding him sometimes.
Which makes him coming to her in the vlog house’s kitchen all the more awkward.
“Hey, I’ve got something for you,” he tells her.
Chris is teaching her how to play Horizon: Zero Dawn today, and Lara Jean took a break to fix them twin bowls of ice cream, with extra chocolate sauce and whipped cream. She’s in the middle of adding sprinkles – god knows why they have that in the kitchen – and thus startles a little at John Ambrose’s surprise appearance.
She closes the tube of sprinkles and turns around, one hand rising to tug a strand of hair behind her ear. “Really?”
He hands out what appears to be a book at first look, but is so much more when she takes it between her hands. It’s an ancient notebook, with a hard cover and pages yellowed by time, so fragile-looking she’s careful when she opens it. Each page is a recipe written by hand in beautiful cursive letters, or cut from a book and taped to a page. From the illustrations alone, it looks at least from the 60s, if not older.
“I told my grandma about you. Her name is Stormy and she’s the most badass person I know. She loves to hear about the gang, and she wanted to know more about you so I showed her some of your videos. I didn’t even know she even cared about cooking before she gave that to me. She said you could put it to good use.”
“Oh my god, it’s amazing.”
Recipes upon recipes of things to put in jello, and old-timey cakes, questionable casseroles and salads. Better than anything she could find on Pinterest, or even Mary Berry’s recent cookbooks. That’s the real stuff, coming to her from a different time, where cooking was a woman’s duty first instead of a little pleasure in life.
A simple hot milk sponge cake catches her eye, and it’s enough to get her mind running. She’s already coming up with so many ideas, and decorated settings for her kitchen, and recipes to try. It’s overwhelming.
“Do you want to collab?” she asks John Ambrose before she can second-guess herself. “I’d really like to meet her, and maybe try a recipe together? We could even play dress up, it could be fun.”
John Ambrose’s mouth stays opened for a few seconds, caught off-guard by her proposition. But then he’s shaking his head a bit and smiling, a little laugh at the corner of his lips. “Sure, why not? Could be fun.”
“Thought we had something, Covey?”
She turns her head to find Peter at the kitchen’s entrance. His eyes are unreadable as they move from her to John Ambrose, to the book in her hands, to her face again. It’s not cold or closed-off, which would be easier to deal with. No, he’s putting on a front, but she can see he’s hurt. Jealous, even.
So she smiles at him, to reassure him. Placate him even, just a little. “We’ll always have fruitcake cookies.”
When he smiles, it doesn’t reach his eyes.
Christmas creeps up around the corner before Lara Jean is ready for it. It goes the same way every year – all three Song girls fly back to spend Christmas with dad, baking more cookies than they can eat and opening their gifts by the tree with hot cups of cocoa on the coffee table. Dad will try (and mostly fail) to cook some Korean meals their mother loved so much, and everyone will pretend not to be sad at the seat that has been empty for longer than not.
This year, though, something different happens. Not with the whole Christmas thing, no, that never changes. But once Lara Jean and Kitty are back to LA, Chris comes over and tells them to pack their things and be ready in an hour, tops. She won’t give them anymore details, so Lara Jean texts Lucas to spills the beans.
“Gabe’s parents own a cabin near Alta Sierra,” she reads out loud to Kitty. “We’re spending New Year’s Eve there.”
“Are you kidding?” Her sister turns around from her wardrobe, a handful of puppy in her hands – yes, a Christmas gift from Peter, surprise, surprise – and a look of wonder on her face. “I’ve always wanted a white New Year!”
“Well, pack warm sweaters, it’s going to be rustic,” Lara Jean comments as Lucas sends her a couple of pictures of said cabins. “And wool socks.”
“Are you going to be kissing Peter at midnight?”
“I want you ready in 20 minutes,” she goes on as she moves to her own bedroom.
Truth is, she doesn’t have that many warm clothes. LA doesn’t require that kind of a wardrobe, especially with the AC they have going on in the house. But Lara Jean manages to dig a few sweaters from the back of her wardrobe, as well as warm leggings she usually wears under dresses when she visits her family in Korean. She even finds a cute hat and matching mittens, and her Hufflepuff scarf from when they went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Exactly one hour later, cars are honking in front of their house. Two of them, the gang split between the vehicles, with Chris behind a wheel and Peter behind the other. He jumps out of his van and helps them carry their bags and puppy supplies.
“I’ll go with Chris,” Lara Jean says, hoping her voice doesn’t shows that she’s still peeved by Kitty’s comment from earlier. If the look Peter gives her is anything to go by, she failed miserably. Not that she lets herself think about it too much, climbing inside the car while Kitty walks toward Peter’s van.
Lucas looks at her through the rearview mirror, one eyebrow raised, but doesn’t say anything. Neither does Chris, once she’s slammed the trunk closed and is back behind the wheel, now blasting a playlist through the speakers.
“Alta Sierra, here we come!”
It takes them four hours to drive to the cabin, and then some for everyone to unload, unpack and unwind. Chris won’t stop complaining about the crick in her neck from driving too long, so much so that she doesn’t even comment or complain at Lara Jean bunking with her in one of the many bedrooms.
Gabe starts a fire in the living room and convinces Kitty to help him make S’Mores, and soon they are all gathered there, sitting straight on the floor with sticky fingers and easy laughs. Everyone but Peter, Lara Jean can’t help but notice, who’s disappeared the moment he parked the car in front of the cabin.
Lucas must notice her look of confusion, because he nudges her with his elbow and nods for her to follow him. She does, silent until they lock themselves in a bedroom, sitting side by side on the bed. They don’t say anything, not for a very long while, but then she starts speaking and finds that she is unable to stop. She tells him about the contract and the fake relationship, about Gen and the party, about Peter’s lack of boundaries, his weird behaviour these past few weeks, and how confused this all is and how lost she feels.
“Wait, you guys have been faking it all this time?” Lucas asks, dumbfounded. When she only nods, looking down at her hand, he lets out a little laugh. “Yeah, no.”
She looks up at him. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve been in the gang for five years now, LJ. I’ve seen some shit happen, and Peter isn’t as good an actor as he thinks he is. Sometimes it’s better that he is behind the camera, actually. So let me tell you, this? This ain’t acting.”
“You can’t know that.” She bites on her bottom lip, before she adds, “If anything else, I’m the one pining like an idiot.”
“Oh, believe me, I can. Because let me resume. You came up with the no PDA rule. You asked John to do something that was entirely Peter-and-you until now. You decided not to drive with him, and not to keep your little collabs exclusive and you very much aren’t the one moping in a corner right now. So if anyone is pining like an idiot, it’s not you. It’s Kavinsky.”
She opens her mouth, but no word comes out at first. And then, “He’s really moping in a corner?”
Lucas only nods.
She finds him in the hot tube, just outside the cabin. He is indeed moping, like Lucas said, looking down with a frown and looking all around miserable. His head shoots up when she says a little ‘hey’ but he doesn’t reply, instead silently following her with his eyes as she makes her way around the hot tube to climb the few steps and sit on the edge.
The contrast of the cold of winter against her skin with the warmth of the water is a weird one, but it doesn’t compared to his heated eyes when they find hers across the water. He swallows, and she sighs. It is harder than she would have believe, for something so simple. Tell your fake boyfriend you like him. Tell him you’ve been stupid, your insecurities have been playing tricks on you, you’re so terrified of making it real. Tell him you don’t remember who you were before him, and you don’t want to go back to being this person. Tell him he matters so much, you can’t even put it into words.
When he still refuses to talk, she asks, “Now you’re ignoring me?”
“Oh I’m the one ignoring you?” he replies with a bitter smile and a snort of humourless laughter. “Funny.”
“Shouldn’t we be easing out of this relationship, since the contract is over anyway?”
Which, all things considered, is the worst thing to say. Peter knows it too, if the look he sends her, halfway between hurt and offended, is anything to go by. And then he’s laughing again, under his breath, and looking down again. Ignoring her. Dismissing her.
She has none of it. Because if those past few months taught her anything, it’s to be braver than she feels, to get out of her comfort zone, to push herself. So she shrugs off her coat, lets it falls on the ground, before she slips her legs inside the hot tube and softly falls in. Peter looks back at her, confused frown on his brows.
“What are you doing?”
“In your pyjamas,” he points out, glancing down at the Hello Kitty combo she’s wearing.
She shrugs a little, even as she moves closer to him until she can put her hands on his knees. “I didn’t bring a swimsuit,” she explains. He’s close enough that she can see the red high on his cheeks, can focus on the way he bites down on his bottom lip as his eyes travel down her body, to the light fabric now sticking to her skin.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, so low she’s afraid he might not hear it.
But he does, of course, leaning forward until his face is only a breath away from hers. “What for?”
“Being scared. Of this. Of us.” She looks away, can’t deal with the intensity of his gaze. “I’m not good at letting people in. It’s not easy for me.”
“You’re doing great so far,” he replies, his voice lighter already, almost smiling. “You suck, though. I’d bought so many snacks for the drive here, even those Japanese drinks you like so much and like, five different types of Pocky. Which means…”
“You like Asian snacks?”
He shakes his head with a chuckle, and splashes some water her way. “Why are you so dense, oh my god.”
She isn’t, of course. So she uses his knees to rise up a little, to lean closer to him. “I’m sorry I’ve been acting stupid lately,” she whispers.
“That’s alright,” he replies in an equally low voice.
And then he finally takes it all in, her body so close to his, her clothes like a second skin, the tension between them like an elastic ready to snap. He notices it all, his eyes darkening even as he offers her a smile, and a tiny shrug, even as he softens in front of her.
“The contract was only until Christmas,” she reminds him.
“I’m aware,” he replies.
His smile is taking over his entire face now, the meaning behind the statement obvious to the both of them – they no longer have to pretend anything. They’re doing this not because they have to, but because they want to. Nothing to bind them professionally, nobody to check on the fine print. Just two people, in front of each other, wearing their feelings on their sleeve.
Peter’s hand grab her thigh in the water as he grins at her, a simple “There’s no one like you, Covey,” on his lips as he hauls her up to sit in his lap. And then he’s kissing her. Or maybe she’s kissing him. Or maybe it doesn’t matter, when all she can focus on is the softness of his lips against hers, the warm of his tongue, the strength of his arms around her. He presses her against his chest, and she loses herself in their kiss, forgets about anything that isn’t Peter and Peter’s mouth and Peter’s love for her.
She breaks away when it becomes too much, only to swoon at the sight of him – lips swollen and eyes pitch black, his hair sticking in every direction, his cheeks burning. He’s so beautiful it takes her breath away, and she has to kiss him again. And again. And again, until he’s giggling against her lips and it makes it all messy.
“Hey, Covey,” he asks, forehead against hers, hand in her hair. “I’ve got a collab idea.”
She laughs, soft, fond. “Let’s make it a series of videos.”
“An ongoing partnership.”
“A second channel.”
“Shut up and kiss me again.”
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