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The Dollar Spot

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"You don't seem like the type to go all out for Valentine's Day," Charles says one day in late January, apropos of nothing as they wander through Target. Erik's not even sure what they're here for, but he's very familiar with the intoxicating hold that Target has on liberal, middle-class Americans of a particular age. Hell, he's not even American and he's still found himself losing an hour and a hundred dollars in Target when all he meant to do was buy dish soap.

But. Valentine's Day.

"I'm not," Erik says as Charles scrutinizes the Dollar Spot. "I mean, I don't dislike it. I just don't...care. It doesn't irritate me. It doesn't excite me either." He doesn't add that he's not frequently had someone to share it with; that bit is obvious, he thinks.

"Hm," Charles says. Then, "Do you think the children would like Star Wars stickers?"

"I think you would like Star Wars stickers," Erik says dryly, and Charles just grins and tosses them into their cart. He goes back to rustling through the random cheap impulse items and several things start to coalesce in Erik's head. For one, Erik hasn't even thought about Valentine's Day. The hearts and flowers started coming out around New Year's, but Erik barely noticed. He's used to just accepting it as a passive fact of life--the leaves fall in autumn, the birds fly south in winter, and between New Year's and mid-February, everything goes very pink for a few weeks. He'd forgotten there was a reason behind it, a reason that was relevant to people in romantic relationships.

When Erik dated Magda in college, she'd loved Valentine's Day. It was almost incongruous--Magda was a very practical woman. But she admitted to him, almost embarrassed, that she'd always been a romantic and liked the idea of one day a year when it was okay to be over the top about how you felt about someone, how you felt about everyone, because even Magda's friends received the sort of little cardboard valentine's you handed out to your classmates in grade school.

"Nostalgia," she said, while scribbling the names of the girls on her hall on little cards with Harry Potter puns.

Charles hasn't said anything one way or the other, but he's Charles. Charles loves everything. Charles probably hand makes valentines for each of the brats at his daycare. Charles probably hand makes valentines for the parents of the brats at his daycare.

Erik's going to need to come up with something major. Fuck.

By the time he's pushing the cart lazily towards the electronics section (after a slow circuit of the rest of the store and a rather impressive build up of items they probably don't actually need), Erik may be full-on panicking. On the inside, at least. He's trying to think of things that Charles needs and likes. Do you get your boyfriend something he needs for Valentine's Day? Or would a practical gift be a social faux pas? He got Magda chocolates and flowers and a bracelet and she was ecstatic, but how does that translate to Charles? Erik's allergic to flowers and, given the amount of time he's been spending at Charles' place and the very real likelihood that he'll be moving in in a month, those seem like a poor choice. Charles does like chocolate. And ice cream. And...children. A book? A movie? Is that too pedestrian?

"You're thinking hard," Charles murmurs without looking up from the five dollar dvds.

"Mm," Erik replies noncommittally. "You would know." He picks up a copy of the Silent Hill movie and debates whether it's worth eight dollars.

"I'm not looking," Charles says. "I can just tell." He tosses a movie into the cart, something animated that Erik's unfamiliar with. "You get this furrow in your brow, right here." Charles steps closer and presses his first finger gently between Erik's eyes. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really," Erik says. "It's not important." He gently closes his own hand around Charles' and pulls it away from his face. Charles takes that as permission to step even further into Erik's personal space, sliding himself between Erik and the cart, trusting Erik to keep the cart from rolling away as he leans back on it, his feet bracketing Erik's.

"I don't know that I believe you," Charles says. His free hand rests against Erik's chest. Charles is always touching him--constantly, unceasingly. Erik doesn't mind, of course, because it's Charles and Erik loves him and definitely enjoys touching him. It makes him wonder, though, about Charles' life before, the years with his mother and stepfather that he doesn't like to talk about. He wonders if Charles has been touch-starved all of this time, the way he curls into every brush of Erik's hand like he needs the contact to live.

"Look, if you must," Erik says, steeling himself for the spike of embarrassment he's sure to feel when Charles noses around his mind and laughs at his anxieties. But instead of raising his fingers to his own temple, Charles leans close and taps Erik's temple instead.

"I don't need to," Charles says. "I can just tell. Take me to dinner and take me to bed. I don't need anything special."

"You know," Erik grumbles as he slides his hands into Charles' back pockets. "Doing that psychic thing when you're not actually doing that psychic thing is kind of creepy."

"You're very predictable and I know you very well," Charles says. "But I'm being honest. I really don't need anything special."

If Charles was anyone else, Erik would take the words at face value. And, really, he believes Charles--Charles would be happy with nothing more than a nice dinner out. Charles might not need anything special, but somehow that makes Erik all the more determined to do something special anyway.

He is continually awed by the strange things that Charles brings out in him.

"Speaking of dinner," Charles says, batting his eyelashes.

"Right," Erik says. "I suppose I promised to feed you."

"You did," Charles says. "I know there's a week's worth of leftover risotto in your refrigerator."

"Not quite a week," Erik says, reluctantly releasing Charles and pointing the cart towards the check-out with a wave of his hand. "I've been taking it for lunch. And I don't have any wine, unfortunately."

"I do," Charles says. "Of course, that's all the way back at my flat, so it's a bit late now. You know what would have solved this problem?"

"Foresight?" Erik asks, though he knows what the answer is.

"Cohabitation," Charles says, and Erik rolls his eyes.

"We'll talk about it later, Xavier," Erik says. They've talked about it before. Well. Charles has talked about it at great length. Erik's still--

It's only been a handful of months. This is all moving quite fast for Erik, and though he trusts Charles, he's not sure he trusts himself. Charles is special--he's something precious. It's not that he's fragile--Charles is practical and strong and not prone to overwrought hysterics--but this thing between them might be. So far it's been perfect, but Erik's afraid he'll be the one to shatter it if he leans too hard. Erik's afraid Charles might not like him once he can no longer retreat, and the degree to which Erik's future happiness hinges on Charles' affection is disturbing.

He needs to do this right. He needs to know that Charles knows what he's getting into. He needs to acclimate himself to the idea.

Charles is good, though, and drops the conversation, helping Erik to move their purchases onto the check-out conveyor belt instead. Erik can't help but shake his head at the really embarrassing number of items they've somehow accumulated.

"What did we come in here for again?" Erik asks, swiping his debit card as the cashier continues to ring out their combined purchases.

I could have done that, Charles thinks at him, looking significantly at Erik's card.

"Q-Tips," he says out loud.

"Right," Erik says, punching in his PIN and shaking his head at the $78 total. The fucking Target Spiral claims another victim. You can pick up the tab of the next $80 totally unnecessary Target trip, he thinks.

The cashier hands him his receipt and he takes two of the bags, leaving the others for Charles and directing the cart towards the corral by the door. He barely gets five feet from the register, however, when Charles catches his shoulder and turns him around, pressing him against the wall and rocking up to kiss him. It's a brief kiss and chaste; Erik can feel Charles' lips curl up into a smile where they press against his own. He puts a hand on Charles' shoulder to hold him there so they can kiss again and then once more. Something about Charles makes Erik feels reckless and young, like he's eighteen and not twenty-eight and it's perfectly acceptable to stand around, making out with his boyfriend in public, just because he can.

He curbs that impulse, however, and pulls away after just those three short kisses.

"What was that for?" he asks. His hand is still wrapped around Charles' shoulder, his thumb stroking back and forth almost involuntarily.

"You bought me Q-Tips," Charles says.

"And ice cream and thumb tacks and stickers and socks and a dvd," Erik says. Not to mention his own purchases.

"I appreciate it," Charles says. He presses his lips to Erik's cheek. "I appreciate you. I appreciate that you don't mind and don't even care and that you automatically assume there's going to be a next trip to Target."

"Of course I do," Erik says. "It's Target. We're in here once a week buying useless crap."

"I know," Charles says. "I just appreciate it."

Erik's a little dazed as they walk out, holding hands all the way up the elevator to Erik's apartment building, adjacent to the shopping center. Charles is a gentle flood of feelings beside him, a bright spot that he finds himself drawn to inexplicably, a flicker of warmth in Erik's otherwise humdrum life.

Target trips are going to become slightly less convenient when he moves into Charles' apartment.

And, fucking hell, he really needs to go all out for Valentine's Day.

"Thinking hard?" Charles asks as Erik unlocks the front door.

"Again," Erik says, "you would know."

Charles grins. "I love you too," he says.

And, while it may not be exactly right this time, Erik smiles anyway and leans over to kiss him, because it's close enough.