From Ashes - New Heights

William and Stephen settled well into their relationship after two years. There had been times when they stumbled through hard situations, but also a lot of happy moments between them. But even as certain things eventually became routine and expected, they didn't tire of each other. They were content.

One of their favorite routine things they started doing together was going on flights. They liked to stretch their wings and take some time away from the rest of the world.

On a day that they were planning on going out for the evening, Stephen approached William while he was working on his charms. "Hey, Will," he said, leaning against the doorway.

William was intently focused on the project in front of him, but he smiled at Stephen's voice. "Hi Stephen," he replied, finishing a quick portion of the charm. Once it was done, he set it down to give the other his attention. "Is it time to go already?"

"Nah, we don't have to go for another couple hours," Stephen said, before giving a smile. "I was just wondering if you wanna go flying for a bit before we go."

"Oh! Well… alright," William agreed. He got up from his work desk, and grabbing a few things, said, "Let me just put all this back. Then I'm yours."

"Take your time," Stephen said, stepping back from the doorway. "Just let me know when you're ready."

"It won't be long," William reassured him.

After about fifteen minutes, William met Stephen in the living room. They took a few minutes to make sure one of them had a key to the apartment and that they were ready to go, before they took Stephen's bike to the hills where they could take off undetected.

The trip took a while to make. It wasn't very often that they did this. The first time Stephen had suggested it, William had even been reluctant. He had worried about accidentally drawing any unwanted attention, which would've soured the experience for him. But Stephen reassured him, so they went, and William hadn't since regretted those trips.

After parking the bike somewhere safe off the road and walking off to somewhere secluded, they got ready to take their flight.

"Wanna go in any particular direction?" Stephen asked.

"I just don't want to go too far, since we have plans later," William said with a shrug. He took off his glasses, tucking them away in a pocket. "Let's just see where the sky feels nicer."

"Sounds good to me," Stephen said with a nod. He glanced around the open area they were in, making one last check before he transformed. William watched the first flames travel up Stephen's form with a warm smile. Then he summoned his own, changing and watching the tips of their slowly growing flames weave around each other. Once they were both standing on the ground much taller than they were before, stretching out their wings, it didn't take long for them to take to the skies.

William lifted himself up until he was high enough to settle into a slow, drifting glide. He spent a moment just absorbing the feeling of air passing over him, the wind streaming through his feathers. He didn't take this form often enough to be instantly used to the new weight of his frame or the arrangement of his limbs. But it didn't take long, either, and it helped to not be alone.

He looked for Stephen. Stephen was taking wide curves through the air, flying around where William glided at a much faster pace. Amused, William watched him until he passed closer, stretching one wing to brush Stephen's feather tips with his. Stephen looked over at William, a smile in his eyes, before banking his wing to circle around William again.

William chuckled to himself, lifting himself up once more to regain some height. "Showoff," he projected, his fondness clear.

"What? I like to go fast," Stephen said back as he flew up next to William.

"You make it look so easy," William said, a bit enviously.

"What can I say? I do a lot of flying." Stephen glanced back over at the other. "It's not a lot of strength to do it, you know. It's mostly just control over your wings."

"Control over my wings?" William repeated. "I thought I did have good control of them…"

"You have good enough control," Stephen chuckled. "I can teach you some easy tricks if you want."

William thought about it. He was somewhat worried about looking silly while trying to learn any tricks. But, he didn't mind that so much with Stephen. "Could you?"

"For sure."

Stephen took a moment to explain the ins and outs of a pretty easy trick: banking into a flip. He described what to do, before demonstrating it a few times. William tried to follow his instructions and demonstrations carefully. He felt close to doing it a few times, but it was frustrating to just barely mess it up. After maybe ten attempts, he lamented to Stephen, "Can't you just be my wings for me?"

"I would if I could, Will," Stephen snickered. "It takes practice. You're a fast learner, so you'll get it soon."

"Alright," William relented, feeling encouraged by Stephen's words.

He kept trying, and after a number of attempts he didn't count, he felt himself finish the trick without any stumbles. He automatically steadied back into a glide, not even thinking about it, stunned by how easy it had felt.

"That was awesome, Will!" Stephen cheered, flying forward to glide next to the other.

"Oh! Thank you," William said back. Excitedly, he added, "That wasn't so bad… that was a lot of fun, actually."

"Try it again," Stephen urged on. "It's, like, the most fun when you get really good at it."

"Okay!" William agreed with a small laugh. And he did so, a few times actually. He felt so much less clumsy in his own body, and he didn't want to lose out on that exhilarating sensation. The realization really hit him in that moment, something he didn't even know he had been questioning. This really was his body, phoenix or not - it was another form of it, but it was his.

It had taken him a long time, and it was something that he still needed to work on. But he was slowly and surely reclaiming his life for himself again.

The night air had a comfortable chill as they stepped out from the warmth of Hepcat's onto the streets. Stephen had William's hand in his, his other hand gripping the strap of his backpack tightly. They followed the stream of concertgoers leaving the venue until they reached the parking lot across the street, chatting along the way about the bands and how William liked it.

When they reached Stephen's bike, Stephen pulled his helmet out of his backpack and held it out to William. William smiled and put it on.

"So," Stephen started, zipping up his backpack. "I was thinking…"

"Thinking what?" William asked. "When you trail off like that, it sounds like it'll either be really good or really bad."

"I think it's good," Stephen chuckled. "I was thinking we could top this night off with a trip to the park. I don't feel like going home yet."

"Oh, that does sound good," William agreed, brightly smiling. "I do want to stay out just a bit longer. The night's been so fun."

Stephen smiled in return. "Awesome." He got on his bike, letting William get on behind him, before starting them off.

Once onto the quieter neighborhood streets, Stephen drove slowly, seeming to savor the drive. William leaned into Stephen's warmth, closing his eyes and simply enjoying the ride.

They got to the park, and Stephen immediately made a beeline for the empty swing set. William followed at a bit more leisurely pace, inwardly smiling at the other's energy. Stephen got on one of the swings and kicked off into a slow, shallow swing.

"Isn't it nice out here?" he said with a grin.

"It is," William chuckled. He sat down on the next swing over, letting it sway naturally. "The sky is beautiful, too," he said, looking up at the night.

Stephen looked up, too, taking in a slow breath and letting it out in a sigh. "Yeah… it is."

After a while, William directed his gaze to Stephen. "Seeing the band was fun, but it's nice to be alone together like this, too."

"Yeah," Stephen agreed, looking over at William with a smile. "I really cherish our time together."

"I do, too," William said back. "You know, after saying that, I feel like we should have commemorated the moment with a toast, or something."

Stephen's smile grew into a wide grin. "...I can do you one better."

William gave Stephen a curious look. "Oh?"

Stephen dragged his foot on the ground to stop his swinging, tucking his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. "You know… I really love you, you know that?"

"Well… of course I do," William replied. "We've been together so long, I couldn't really think otherwise."

Stephen slowly stood up from his swing, starting to look a little nervous. "And… you love me, too?"

William's expression softened. "I do. I love you very much, Stephen."

"Then…" Stephen took in a deep breath, pulling something out of his pocket. He stepped over to stand in front of William, before kneeling before him. He opened a small box in his hands. When William realized what Stephen was doing, he lifted his hands to his face and gasped. Stephen looked up at William, barely able to contain his cocktail of emotions. "William… will you marry me?"

William kept covering his mouth for a moment, just overwhelmed by a sudden surge of happiness, excitement, and shock. When he moved his hands, it was to rub at the edges of his eyes, which were tearing up. "Oh, Stephen… yes! Yes, of course I will..!" He cut himself off, hearing himself stammer. "Oh, wow, I… I can feel my heart racing…"

Stephen laughed in his surprise at William's eager reaction, standing up to press a kiss to William's lips. "I love you so much, Will," he said, his voice cracking. "Thank you…" William didn't give him much chance to say anything else, getting up to pull him into another, deeper kiss.