He doesn't actually remember the first time. He was maybe six, and it was pink and sparkly, and it belonged to a friend of his. He'd been at her house for a playdate, and they'd decided to play tea party, which of course required formal wear.
But since her dress up box didn't have any suits, Magnus just put on the biggest play dress she owned. When his mother came to pick him up, she'd laughed at his get up and taken a picture.
He'd found it years later, once he turned eighteen and finally had access to all of her things that had been stored in a warehouse, tucked inside a journal detailing the events of that day. That's the only reason he knows it happened.
The second time,the time he remembers, he's nine. The dress is blue with purple polka dots, and it belongs to his foster sister.
Their foster mother had found Magnus wearing it and screamed at him. He got the message that day.
Boy's can't wear dresses, not unless they're faggots. That's the first time he hears the word, and even though he didn't know what it meant, he knew he didn't like being called one.
The third time is not his idea. He's nineteen, in college, and five months into a relationship with a guy named Davie.
The dress this time is made of smooth black silk. It covers almost nothing, and leaves Magnus shivering. Davie's room is always freezing.
"God baby, you look so hot." Davie presses wet kisses to Magnus' neck, and runs a hand up his thigh, slipping it under the hem of the dress.
Magnus knows he should be thinking about that, about his half naked boyfriend behind him.
But all he can think of is how much his eyes itch because Davie doesn't like his glasses and insisted Magnus wear his contacts. And how much he dislikes being called baby. It makes him feel like a child.
He breaks up with the redhead on their six month anniversary. It might make him an asshole, but Magnus doesn't care.
He's twenty one when he meets Alec. His friends had decided that the perfect way to celebrate his birthday was to get him drunk in a bar, despite his protests that he had a class the next day.
The problem was that hadn't really like any of the drinks they'd forced doesn't his throat.
"You don't look like you're having a good time birthday boy."
"What?" Magnus blinks, startling. He'd been staring at the bar trying to remember the vocab words he'd planned to spend the night reviewing.
The bartender smiles, and wow. He's breathtakingly hot, with his perfectly styled dark hair and tight black shirt. An earring glints in his left lobe. Hot.
"You don't look like you're having the best time." The man repeats, still smiling.
"Oh, um. I'm not really." Magnus admits. "Alcohol seems to not be my think. I'm not surprised." He doesn't ask how the man knows its his birthday. Ragnor had loudly announced it a few drinks before he'd stumbled into the dance floor.
Sometimes Magnus regrets his friend making decisions.
The man hums and turns around. A minute later he pushes a glass full of a bright pink liquid towards Magnus. "Here, try this. I'm Alec, by the way."
"Magnus." He takes a tentative sip. It's fruity and really sweet. "This is...okay."
He ends the night slightly tipsy, with Alec's number written on a napkin and the promise of a date next Wednesday.
He's twenty six when he looks at a dress again and wants. Magnus can't understand why, just that he does.
The dress isn't anything special. A green sundress with a yellow flower pattern, on the clearance rack. Yet he can't tear his eyes away.
"Hey babe, you got everything?"
Magnus turns his attention to his boyfriend. Alec is frowning a bit, looking concerned.
"Yeah. I found everything." He puts the three boxes of expo markers into their cart, already mostly full of back to school supplies for both of their classrooms. Alec's high school English, and Magnus' second grade.
"Great, because my sister just texted and wants to know where we are. We we're supposed to meet her at the restaurant half an hour ago."
"Shoot. I guess we'll just have to get the art supplies another day. I told you we should have left earlier."
"Well, it's your fault."
Magnus barrows his eyes. "How exactly is this my fault?"
"Well, you looked so adorable this morning, I couldn't just get out of bed and leave you to grow cold. And you wouldn't agree to a shower together afterwards." Alec grins, as of his argument made any sense at all.
"You and I both know that if we had showered together we would have been running even later."
"Okay, okay, you have a point," Alec concedes and kisses Magnus on the cheek. He can tell Alec wants to kiss him on the mouth but knows Magnus isn't the most comfortable with that much PDA in the middle of a Target, surrounded by families school shopping. In the isle between the school supplies and the women's clothes.
But Magnus doesn't forget about the dress. Not when they're checking out, or eating lunch with Isabelle.
That night, when Alec is fast asleep but Magnus is still thinking of dresses and all the forbidden things he wants, he finds himself pulling up Target's website on the laptop.
He finds the dress.
$19.99! End of Summer sale, limited time deal. This week only, buy one get one half off.
How easy it would be to just...buy it. Buy two actually. The green one, and another. To hang them in his closet and sometimes take them down and wear them around the house. To do cooking dinner or sweeping and suddenly stop and twirl, just because.
Because he wants to feel the air on his legs. Because the feeling makes him giggle and feel like a carefree kid again.
Beside him, Alec let's out a little snore, shifting a bit.
With one last look at the dress, Magnus shuts off the laptop, putting it on the nightstand and pulling the covers up over himself.
But he doesn't fall asleep for a long while.
Two days later, he sends Alec back to Target with a careful list of the art supplies he still needs, with a note at the bottom reading 'and nothing else. Seriously Alexander we don't need anymore tubes of glitter or more hot glue. Please'
Then he heads to his school and begins setting up his room. It's a different one from the year before, despite being at the same school. The principal or whoever is in charge of this sort of thing decided that for some reason all the grades should be shuffled around so now he's in the room that used to belong to the kindergarten.
He spends an hour alone moving all the desks around, trying to figure out how to best arrange them in this new space.
When he leaves, it's pouring rain. Water droplets collect on his glasses, making it hard to see.
By the time he's outside their apartment, Magnus wants nothing more than to put on his pajamas and use his boyfriend as a pillow while cuddling on the couch and watching Netflix.
Alec is in the kitchen when he opens the door, wearing an apron and holding a mixing bowl. He puts it down to come over and kiss Magnus.
"Hey darling. How was setting up your room?"
"Ugg, not fun." Magnus buries his head in the crook of Alec's neck. "And I didn't even get the decorations up, and I still have to sort all those art supplies you got today."
Alec shifts a bit at the mention of the supplies, causing Magnus to pull back and narrow his eyes. "Alec, what did you do? Did you get more glitter when I said we don't need anymore?" Another thought occurs to him. "Did you buy more earrings? I know you like shiny things but you already have a thousand. And you only have the one ear pierced!"
"No, I didn't buy anymore earrings. Promise. Actually, I got something for you. A gift."
"Yeah. It's in a bag on our bed." Alec kisses him, "Go see, I'll wait out here. Love you."
"Love you too." Now Magnus is just confused. It isn't like Alec to be subtle or shifty.
Their room, like their apartment is small, with not a lot of furniture. Come the end of summer break, it will once again be covered in papers in various stages of graded and the messy projects of second graders.
Their bed, despite Alec's wishes, is not a king size. But the queen was slightly less expensive and also fit in the bedroom. They'd comprised on matching sheets, blankets, and pillow cases. In the winter they would bring out the quilt made by Magnus' grandmother, which was comfortable enough that his boyfriend hardly ever complained about it not matching the rest of the room.
On top of the bed sat the promised bag. A gift, Alec had called it. Perfectly normal.
Except for how nervous Alec had looked about it.
Inside the bag is the dress. Green, with a yellow flower pattern. Below it, a red one of the same cut. And a denim jacket that matches both, because they have short sleeves and sometimes Magnus randomly feels awkward about showing a lot of skin, even if it's just his arms.
He feels tears pick in his eyes. The fabric is soft under his hands, as soft as he dreamed it would be. He wants to pull off his clothes and put it on, it feel the soft fabric against his skin. To walk around and not feel the restraints of pants.
Instead, Magnus sets the dress on the bed and finds his boyfriend and hugs him tightly.
"Thank you so much Alexander."
"You like them then? You're not mad?"
"Why on Earth would I be mad darling?"
Alec swallows and runs a hand through his hair, a nervous tick of his. "Because I overstepped? But I couldn't stop thinking about how you looked at the dress while at the store. And I swear I didn't mean too, but I saw on the search history on the laptop that you'd looked it up. You clearly wanted it and I want to give you everything you want. Ever. But if I read it wrong we can return them."
Magnus smiles fondly. "You didn't read it wrong. I love them, thank you so much. You have no idea how much it means to me. I love you."
"I love you too, Magnus. Oh, you're going to look so stunning. And I have some ideas about you in eyeliner-"
"Don't push it."