AN: Here is this week's chapter! Now, there's a smidgeon of implied sexual content at the end, but it's all implied! Please enjoy anyway :)

From Ashes - Confiding, Again

The visits from the fae persisted, and William questioned how to best deal with it. An idea occurred to him a week later, when Stephen let him know he had to take off for work again. He decided to get away from the city and spend a long visit back home with his family. It gave him the opportunity to deal with other personal matters.

William had told his brothers about Stephen, but it was different talking about it in person than over the phone. He endured their questioning and teasing, but they also pried for William's genuine feelings about the relationship. William wasn't bothered about the attention, knowing the concern came from not knowing much about Stephen. He was sure they would feel differently when they got to know him.

The matter of when obviously came up, especially when William admitted the reason for his sudden visit. It didn't come up easily for either him or his brothers. Even presently, they tended to avoid directly speaking about the circumstances of their childhood. But William found it necessary to deal with that barrier. If he couldn't speak to them about it, how would he ever be able to bring it up to Stephen?

They told him what he already expected to hear, that it was a conversation he really needed to have. What wasn't easy to hear was that it needed to be had sooner than later. David even took him aside afterwards, pointing out that he was only making himself feel guilty for avoiding the subject so long. He didn't say he had to talk about it yet, but he did say William should just admit there was something he couldn't talk about yet.

Despite the heavy talk, William liked his time back home. But after a couple weeks, he found himself missing his friends back in the city more than he expected. He was also starting to miss the city itself, but mostly, he missed Stephen. William sometimes found himself feeling jealous of his brothers, whose friends and significant others had long been known to the rest of the family. They were also already quite aware of their childhood circumstances.

After three weeks, when William finally headed back to the city, he thought over and over about what he'd do once Stephen came back. He had one last week to think about it, until Stephen finally called him.

"Will, I'm back!" Stephen said as soon as William answered. "I wanna see you again."

William smiled at the sound of Stephen's voice and the genuineness of his words. "Hey Stephen, did you just get back?" he asked, noticing the time. It was a bit later in the day. "I can come over right now. I want to see you, too."

"Yeah, I just got back," Stephen answered, rustling with something in the background. "I'll come get you. I can't wait to see you."

Giddily, William replied, "I'll be waiting, just let me know when you're here. And drive safe, okay? Don't break any speed limits."

Stephen chuckled. "I'll try not to. See you soon."

Stephen arrived within twenty minutes, waiting by the front door of William's apartment building. As soon as William stepped outside, Stephen pulled him into a tight hug, kissing the side of his head. William happily returned the embrace, squeezing the other warmly.

"I'm really glad you're here..." William mumbled, giving Stephen a soft look. "It always feels like ages since I've last seen you."

"This is only the second time I've left like this," Stephen chuckled.

William blushed, and then admitted, "I meant in general."

Stephen gave William a fond look, running his hand through the other's hair as he kissed his forehead. "I missed you, too."

William leaned into Stephen's arms, just breathing his presence in for a moment. He sighed lightly, then asked, "Where are we going? Back to your apartment?"

"How about we get some snacks and go to the park?" Stephen asked with a smile. "It's starting to warm up, so it's a nice day."

William nodded, and they began to head over to Stephen's bike. "I like that idea. I haven't been to the park in a while."

"Perfect." Stephen handed William his helmet and they headed off to a gas station with a convenience store to pick up snacks. After they made their selections, they went off to the park.

It was the same park they had been to before together, but it was a lot more lively with families having picnics and kids playing on the structures. They managed to claim an empty picnic table to set out their snacks.

As William opened his can of tea, he looked out at the playground. "This is nice. It's usually so quiet here."

"I love seeing all the people," Stephen agreed, opening a bag of chips. "But I can't decide whether I like being here at night or in the day more."

"I guess that depends on if you feel like being alone or not," William replied.

"That's true," Stephen said with a nod. He leaned his elbow on the table, resting his cheek on his hand and quietly watching William.

Eventually, William's eyes found their way back to Stephen. He gave him an amused smile, and opened a snack bag as well. "Do you know how long you'll be off work?" he asked.

"I can never really say," Stephen said back with a small frown. "I could have anywhere between two weeks and two months, usually."

"Oh... so a pretty sporadic timeframe," William noted.

"Yeah, it's a little hard to make big plans," Stephen said with a bitter chuckle. "Everything I do has to be a little impulsive."

"Well… I was asking because I wanted to know when the best time to introduce you to my family would be."

Stephen straightened up a bit. "Oh! Well, whenever you'd like."

William smiled. "It's a long trip over so it would be longer than a day visit."

"That's fine," Stephen said, returning with a beaming smile. "I'd love to meet them."

"Great! I'll let you know when I know the date," William replied, before starting to eat one of his snacks.

Stephen picked a chip out of his bag. "I look forward to it."

They stayed at the park for a few hours, just chatting and enjoying each other's company. William mentioned that he visited his family while Stephen was away, and talked about a few things he did together with them. Stephen was interested to hear all about it.

"They sound like a lot of fun to hang out with," Stephen commented.

William chuckled, looking off a bit. "They do make sure I'm never too bored while I'm there. We're always trying different things."

"I'm glad you have such great siblings." Stephen looked toward the playground. His expression was soft.

With a thoughtful nod, William regarded Stephen again. He noticed the look on his face. "... I am, too," he agreed.

They stayed at the park until sometime past when it became vacant of other people. Stephen and William spent some time on the swings now that the children were gone.

Stephen looked over at William with a small smile. "Hey, William…"

William glanced back to him. "Yeah?"

"Do you think your family will like me? Sorry to go back to an old topic, but I was wondering…"

"No, it's okay," William reassured, stopping the motion of his swing. "I do think they will like you. My brothers may or may not give you a bit of a hard time, but they're just like that sometimes."

Stephen let out a sigh. "That's good to know."

William smiled at his relief, and a short quiet passed between them. The thought of his brothers, Stephen, and the silence between them then reminded him of something he had yet to do. And if he really wanted Stephen to see his family before the next time he left, now was the best time for it.

He looked ahead, slowly drawing in a breath. "Hey, Stephen," he then spoke out.

Stephen gave William a curious look. "Yeah?"

"Um… there's something I need to talk to you about," William said, thinking through his words. "Before you visit my family."

"What is it?"

William folded his hands together in his lap. "Well… my family situation is… somewhat complicated. I've never really said it all out loud. Um… I'm not very sure where to start."

Stephen slowed his swinging, giving William more of his attention. "Start anywhere, I guess."

"...Okay," William mumbled. "It… doesn't really explain a lot, but… I guess the easiest thing to mention first is that my brothers and I are all adopted. We're still related to each other, but our parents adopted us."

"Okay," Stephen said with a small nod.

After a calming breath, William continued. "We were first adopted when we were very young. Our… biological parents were human, and… after our magic came in, we couldn't stay with them."

At that, Stephen looked curious. "Were you all turned?"

"No, no, it wasn't like that," William answered with a shake of his head. "It was like… well, it was like how most magical children manifest their magic. Except... it happened all at once for us, and it was different for each of us. But it wasn't a turning."

"...But your parents were human?" Stephen's expression turned to one of confusion.

"Okay, this is the really complicated part," William said. He paused briefly, then turned to Stephen with a question. "Do you… know anything about the Regents of the realms?"

Stephen looked up in thought. "I feel like I've heard of that before…"

"Well… maybe you'd recognize them more from their individual names. They're called the Shade Monarch, the Great Leviathan, and the Phoenix."

"Oh, yeah, I've heard of those," Stephen said back, turning his gaze back at William.

William nodded absently, expecting as much. "They're pretty… different from other creatures in their realm, even the ones they resemble the most. There's only ever one of each, and they… disappear and reappear over time."

"...And how's this relate to your magic?"

"Well…" William trailed off, hesitant. Then he continued. "The last time they reappeared, they actually… manifested instead."

Stephen seemed to piece the information together in his head. "Oh, I see. So, you and your brothers are…"

"...Yeah," William simply said.

"So, the university…"

William sighed. "They really want me to stay in the Fae Realm and fill the same position as the last Phoenix. I almost did… but I decided to leave."

"Why won't they leave you alone?" Stephen asked, sounding a little agitated. "You said no."

"I guess… the fae have a hard time not thinking of me as the other Phoenix," William said back, kicking some of the wood chips underneath them. "They're very, um… attached to her." Stephen hummed in understanding, looking off. When he didn't say anything, William gave him a worried look. "Does this… change anything?"

Stephen immediately shook his head. "Not at all. I mean, I'm a little surprised," Stephen said with a short chuckle, before looking at William with a small smile. "But no, it doesn't change anything."

"So… we're okay?" William pressed further. "You still want to meet my family?"

"Of course," Stephen answered, reaching out a hand toward William.

William responded with a wobbly smile as he took Stephen's hand. His throat suddenly felt tight, and he was a little overwhelmed from the immediate relief. "Thank you," he just barely managed to say.

"Hey," Stephen said gently, giving William's hand a squeeze. "Nothing you tell me could change anything. Unless you tell me you killed someone or something."

Despite the tears pricking at his eyes, William snorted. "No, no, I haven't done that."

"Then we're okay," Stephen said with a smile. "I'll love you no matter what."

William returned the squeeze to Stephen's hand. "Stephen… I really love you, too."

Stephen stood up from his swing, turning to face William. "How about we head to my place?"

"Okay, I'd like that," William agreed, getting up.

They made their way back to Stephen's apartment, and upon walking in, Stephen glanced over at William. "Do you have somewhere you need to be in the morning?"

"Oh… not really. Are you inviting me to stay over?"

"Yeah," Stephen said with a smile. "If that's okay."

William smiled back, leaning over to lightly brush up to Stephen's side. "Yeah. I'll stay."

Stephen wrapped his arm around William's shoulders, leaving a kiss on his forehead. "Awesome. Do you want some comfy clothes?"

William tucked his head into Stephen's shoulder. "Yes, please."

Stephen led William into his room and picked out some sweatpants and a tee shirt for William to wear, before handing them over. William took them and turned away to change, leaving his own clothes on top of Stephen's dresser. Stephen took a moment to change as well, pulling clothes out of the suitcase on the floor by the bed.

When he finished, William came up from behind him and wrapped his arms loosely around Stephen's waist. "So, what do you want to do? TV, or something else?"

Stephen smiled and turned around to wrap his arms around the other as well. "Maybe we can snuggle up. I've missed you a lot."

With a chuckle, William looked up to Stephen and replied, "That sounds perfect."

Stephen got comfortable on his bed, before patting the space on the mattress next to him. William scooted over and curled up beside him, taking Stephen's hand to kiss his knuckles and pull him in. With a sigh, Stephen wrapped his arm around William's waist.

"I'm so glad to be back," Stephen murmured.

William nodded against him in agreement. "I hope you do get to stay for a while."

"I hope so, too," Stephen said with another sigh. "I'm pretty tired out."

William turned a bit more to face the other, and reached up to brush some hair away from Stephen's face. "Yeah, I think you deserve the break."

Stephen smiled softly, pulling William closer to press a kiss to his lips. "I'm already enjoying it."

Chuckling with a kiss in return, William said, "You're such a charmer."

Stephen laughed lightly, before locking their lips in another kiss, one of his hands traveling upward to stroke through William's hair. William hummed in response, cupping Stephen's face as the kiss deepened. He kept him close, just relishing their physical contact.

After a long string of kisses and lingering touches, Stephen's hands wandered toward places they had only hinted at before. In the moment, William barely realized it. But as they persisted, and William began to feel the sweet haze in his mind pool into his body, he suddenly shied and stilled.

Immediately, Stephen pulled his hands away to rest at William's sides. "Sorry…"

William blushed at Stephen's prompt reaction, and took a moment to relax. "No no, it's okay!" he reassured, then sighing. "I… I just got a bit embarrassed."

Stephen gave William a fond smile, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "Do you want to go any further? We don't have to if you don't want to."

"... I want to go further," William replied, quietly. He wrapped his arms around Stephen's shoulders. "It's just… well…"

"Just what?" Stephen pressed.

William glanced away a bit. "I haven't ever… gotten this far with someone before. So…"

"Oh." Stephen averted his gaze for a moment, before looking back at William with a small smile. "I'll go really slow, okay?"

Smiling back gratefully, William replied, "Okay. Thank you."

Stephen, staying true to his promise, did go slowly. He didn't venture into new territory immediately — he kissed and touched him gently, familiarly, until the words they just shared weren't so loud in William's head. Stephen kept a patient, steady pace, always watching William's reactions whenever he tried something new and pushed things further. He always asked permission before trying something that might be too surprising. As he explored, he left gentle, loving kisses along William's body with a carefulness that gave William a much needed sense of security. It felt easy, in the beginning.

As things progressed, though, William found himself less certain about what to do. But Stephen never made him feel anxious about it. Stephen didn't really expect William to do anything beyond making what Stephen was doing a little easier. He guided him along, speaking directions and plenty of reassurances to him in a soft, quiet voice. Stephen focused on William completely.

It wasn't easy to ignore every insecurity. William couldn't help but notice the gap in their experience, how he hesitated in every moment that Stephen did not. He tried hard to brush over it, especially when he noticed Stephen sometimes pausing to just look at him. He was certain every feeling and conflicting thought showed on his expression. But Stephen waited patiently for every green light before he pressed beyond boundaries they had never crossed over before. It was so shockingly new, being so known.

Stephen eased them both forward, making sure William knew he was enjoying this just as much as he hoped William was, too. He let himself be heard, holding William tighter and leaving hot kisses on his skin between his breaths. William was surprised by how receptive Stephen was to even his barest reactions. That was when he realized it — he wasn't the only one being slowly unraveled, being exposed. Stephen was also giving himself over to him.

William took in each and every one of Stephen's reactions. And once he began doing that, he was actually able to lose himself in the intimacy of the passing moments.

When they were left spent with racing hearts, Stephen collapsed onto the bed next to his partner, letting out a contented sigh. He pressed kisses to William's cheek, holding him close. Still catching his breath, William simply absorbed Stephen's affections. After a short quiet passed, he turned to nuzzle into Stephen's shoulder.

Stephen kissed the top of William's head, smiling to himself. "Love you, Will."

William turned his gaze up to Stephen. Despite having kissed him so many times that night, he suddenly felt an intense desire to do so again. And he did. "I love you, too, Stephen. I love you so much."