It was early morning. Sunlight filtered through the curtains next to Gowther's hammock, casting thin shadows across the pages of the book he was reading, glinting softly off the doll's glasses. His golden gaze drifting, he settled on the figure in the bed nearby. The other, who was laying on his side, was currently facing away from him.
Slader was one of the few regular humans he travelled with, the only other he could be sure of being Princess Elizabeth; he couldn't be absolutely certain about a few of their party members, which irritated him slightly, but that couldn't be helped. But he could be sure about Slader. He was human, no doubt about it. Being that, the knight possessed a few things he didn't.
One of them being a heart.
The heart was something Gowther couldn't quite understand. He knew a good deal about it in a biological sense; it was a strong organ located in the chest, vital to life due to it's role in pumping blood around the body. But he'd heard and read of it in a different context, pertaining to emotions, and that was where he'd become unsure, confused. Not having one of his own meant he couldn't look to himself for answers, but books and people didn't seem to be of any help either. It was frustrating, in a way. The question always sat at the back of his mind, coming to the front of his thoughts in quiet moments when he had no distractions. Despite the great deal of thought he'd put into the question, however, no concrete answers had ever come.
He raised a delicate eyebrow as Slader moved in his sleep, turning onto his back, dark hair strewn across the pillows. The bed would typically have been occupied by Ban, but his absence left it empty and available for the knight's use. King didn't appear to be in the room, so Gowther could assume he was with Diane at the moment. He tilted his head slightly as he looked at the other. He could just about hear him breathing at this distance, but he was sure there was something else that could typically be heard from a human, even while asleep. He thought hard about it for a minute.
Oh, that was it. A heartbeat. But at his current proximity to the knight, he was unable to hear it. He suddenly found that he wanted to hear it. The small curiosity had grown into something of a need. He shook his head slightly. It was silly, really. He didn't need to. But as he tried to fix his focus on the pages of his book, he found that he couldn't.
But why? He didn't know, but one thing was for certain, the niggling thought wouldn't stop bothering him until he did as it said. With a soft sigh, he marked his page and closed the book, then swung his legs over the side of the hammock, socked feet making little noise as they came into contact with the floorboards. He took the few steps over to the side of Slader's -or rather, Ban's- bed, crouching slightly and listening closely.
Despite being closer, he couldn't hear it. Though, to be fair, he knew the sound wasn't particularly loud, unless the person in question was startled or had been exerting themselves, neither of which were common occurrences during sleep. If he wanted to hear it, he'd have to be closer still.
Slader was lying rather close to the left side of the bed. Not wanting to clamber over him and cause himself unnecessary trouble, Gowther quietly padded around to the other side of the bed, placing two hands in front of him on the mattress before bringing his knees up. The doll shuffled forward slightly, and was about to lean down, but quickly noted that whilst still kneeling, leaning down so close was rather uncomfortable, and put an awkward strain on his neck.
He shifted to lie on his front, one arm draped across the other's chest and the other tucked under himself as he laid his head on Slader's chest, letting his eyes flutter closed. Being this close, he could hear it clearly; a strong, steady beat from within the knight's chest. He found the noise to be relaxing. It was a pleasant, low sound.
If Gowther thought a little harder, he could remember why a heartbeat sounded like this, why it made two sounds in each beat; The first sound was when the mitral and tricuspid valves of the heart closed, the second when the pulmonary and aortic semilunar valves closed. They opened and closed to allow blood to flow in, and be pumped back out at high pressure once it had been sent to the lungs and obtained oxygen to distribute around the body. Thought, despite knowing all this, he didn't understand what it had to do with emotions.
Slader stirred slightly, awake but eyes still shut. From the light that shone against his closed eyes, he could assume that it was approaching morning, and was about to sit up when he felt an unfamiliar weight on top of him. The blankets weren't that heavy, and so he quickly opened his eyes, a little anxious as to what it could be. When he went to rise, however, he found a familiar sin's hands at his shoulders, pushing him back down gently, and surprisingly easily considering how light the doll was. Slader blushed slightly, cheeks dusted with a pale pink, but was relived to find the weight was something, or rather someone, that would be relatively harmless to him. Having settled back down, he had a couple of questions.
"Gowther?" He began questioningly. "What are you-"
He was cut off by Gowther pressing a soft finger to his lips, silencing him. He found himself unable to say anything more under the other's soft, golden gaze.
"Shh." The doll articulated simply.
With that, Gowther rested his head against Slader's chest again, eye's half closed, long lashes blocking the sunny orbs from the knight's view. Gowther held the fabric of the other's shirt loosely with one hand, rubbing the thin fabric between his fingers. He was relaxed, content to lie and listen to the steady beat of Slader's heart. It was comforting, in a way.
Slader tried to do the same, to relax, but it was difficult when Gowther was so close to him. The sight of the other like this, his lithe form across him and fitting so well against his own body was hard to ignore. He counted himself lucky Gowther couldn't see the sappy, adoring look he was giving him; the doll looked so peaceful to him, eyes lidded and breathing slow and soft, the gentle breeze of it fanning just barely against his skin.
After a long while of lying like this, Slader couldn't help but ask what he was going to earlier.
"What exactly are you doing, dear...?♡" He asked quietly.
Gowther shifted, looking up at the knight. His hair was a little messy having not been brushed yet, glasses slightly askew from the way he was lying. Behind the frames lay a pair of innocent, yellow eyes, off of which the early morning sun reflected, highlighting the caramel and bronze flecks in the doll's irises.
"I was listening." He said, blinking a few times behind his lenses.
"To what, exactly?" Slader replied, smiling softly at the doll.
Gowther appreciated that the knight had asked him to be specific for what he was trying -and very much succeeding- to listen to. Had he listed everything he could hear (the birds outside, the other's breathing and the wind rustling in the trees outside being just a few) it would have taken a long time.
"Your heart." He stated easily.
Slader gently put an arm over the sin's back, pleased when Gowther hummed softly rather than pushing it away.
"What's so interesting about it?" Slader asked.
Gowther decided he'd listened to the knight's heart for long enough. Now they were talking, he would be unable to give it his full attention anyway.
He shifted slightly, moving to nuzzle into the crook of the other's neck, pink hair tickling the skin.
"I don't have one of my own." The doll said. "I suppose that makes yours seem more interesting to me than it would to someone else."
Slader's breath caught slightly as the doll leant in closer, but he kept his composure. When he'd put his arm around the other, his hand had settled to hold Gowther's waist. He now rubbed small circles there, slow and gentle, the movement something of a habit.
"I suppose so..." Slader said in a sigh of breath.
Gowther lay still, breathing slowly against the other's neck. Being like this was relaxing; the knight was warm and the blankets beneath him were soft, and smelt softly of flowers -they must have been washed recently- and although Slader himself didn't have any distinctive scent, something about it did indeed seem pleasant, a mix of leather and something slightly sweet he couldn't quite pick out, most likely whatever soap he used to wash the evening before. He nuzzled a little closer, breathing in deeply.
Slader couldn't help but find the doll adorable. It was a combination of his lithe build, soft appearance, and the general low, pleasant tone in which he spoke which appealed to him, not to mention the almost childish curiosity the other had for some things. Even with Gowther not being his typical 'type', he found himself staring at the doll in quiet moments in the bar, checking around during a fight to ensure Gowther was unharmed (not that much could harm the sin anyway). Having him this close was like something out of a dream.
Gowther hummed softly, head tilting to a slightly different angle, eyelashes brushing the other's neck each time he blinked.
"You're very comfortable..." He murmured sleepily.
"Why thank you, dear.♡" The knight responded.
Slader flushed slightly, his free hand going to nestle in the doll's cerise locks, fingers twining through soft tendrils of hair. Gowther seemed to respond well to the touch, moving to press snugly against the other man, eyes falling closed, drinking in his touch and warmth. Noticing this, he continued petting the doll's head, playing with his only slightly messy hair, smoothing out the sin's bedhead, his attention soon undoing all the little tangles.
Gowther felt as though something was missing. He was perfectly comfortable like this, and frankly quite enjoyed being this close to the knight, but from the books he'd read he was certain he should be doing something else as well. He'd read plenty of scenes where the characters interacted closely like this, especially in the many romance novels he'd read whilst in hiding (he supposed they must have gained more popularity a short while after the Seven Deadly Sins fled from Liones) and had even read a few to the armoured giant he had previously travelled with. He thought back to them, brow furrowed slightly.
He blinked quickly a couple of times as he remembered just what he'd been thinking of. Shifting, Gowther rose slightly to have his face a few inches from the knight's own, noting how when he moved Slader's hand had slid to the back of his neck. He looked into the other's eyes for a minute, gold meeting turquoise.
Slader flushed, eyes widening slightly. He couldn't help but look at the doll now he was so close to him, couldn't help but notice how his hair fell round his face, the gentle curiosity in the other's honey eyes.
"W-what are you doing?" He stammered out.
That was the second time Slader had asked the same question that morning, but this time the sin didn't give him as straightforward an answer. In fact, he wasn't even sure if it classed as an answer, to be honest. The hand that Gowther had previously tucked under himself came up to softly touch the knight's cheek, brushing a few strands of hair out of the way.
"Your heartbeat has increased, but please try to relax." Gowther said, monotone as usual. "I have read about this before, and I would like to try it out."
Before Slader could say anything, Gowther had closed the gap between them, pressing his lips to the knight's own. Slader's eyes widened, in contrast to the sin closing his, and he was having difficulty believing that wasn't a dream. It just felt so perfect; Gowther's lips were soft -almost plush- against his, and even though the kiss was close-mouthed and chaste, it made Slader feel as though he was burning up under the oh so gentle contact.
It was all too soon before the doll pulled away, though when he opened his eyes it seemed as though his pupils were just a little less focused than before, but he could have easily been imagining that.
"Did I do that right?" The doll asked.
Slader was snapped out of his little haze as Gowther spoke. Blushing hard, he tried to think of a decent reply, and got there in the end.
"That was just f-fine, dear." He replied, voice lacking it's usual strength.
Slader was about to speak again, but just as he opened his mouth to do so Gowther moved away just a tad too quickly. Just as the doll put a little distance between their faces, his glasses slipped off, falling before he could catch them and hitting the knight square in the face. It wasn't as though the frames weighed much, but after hitting Slader they fell to the side, onto the floor, before bouncing just under the bed. Gowther's eyes widened a little in dull suprise, and he sat up, looking (could it be counted as looking if he couldn't see properly?) down at the other.
"Ah." He said in dull surprise. "My apologies."
"N-None needed.♡" The knight assured him.
Slader decided whatever he was going to say could wait. He sat up as well, glancing around.
"Now, where did those go...?" He wondered aloud.
"I think I heard them hit the floor." The doll said softly from his current position, sat on the bed.
Slader swung his legs over the side of the bed after pushing the sheets off his form, kneeling down to look around for the doll's glasses. He frowned when he didn't see them right away, but a soft breeze coming through the window made the curtains shift, casting a thin beam of light in just the right place to glint off the lenses. The knight quickly plucked them from the floorboards, wiping the dust from them on his shirt before holding them out to the sin still kneeling on the bed.
"Here they are, dear."
"Thank you." The doll said. Maybe Slader was imagining it, but he thought he may have seen him smile ever so slightly.
Gowther moved closer to the edge of the bed, reaching out to take the glasses held out to him. However, just as he did so he put his other hand down for support, only to misjudge the distance due to his impaired sight and for his hand to meet nothing but air. He let out a short, quiet gasp as he lost his balance, falling forward.
Only to find himself caught mid-drop.
Slader managed to catch the doll as he slipped, holding him in a somewhat awkward position, half on the bed and half in his arms. Gowther blinked quickly a few times, the confusion in them clearing.
"Ah. He said finally. "Thank you, again."
Slader stood, helping the sin back up to sit cross legged on the sheets.
"Not a problem." Slader chuckled.
He perched on the edge of the bed next to Gowther, taking the glasses still in his own hand and slipping the handles over the doll's ears, resting the frames gently on the bridge of his nose. He brushed a few hairs out for behind the eyepiece, smiling a little.
"There, all sorted.♡" He said lightly.
Gowther reached up, adjusting his glasses slightly. He suddenly remembered a similar scene in a book that Merlin had lent him recently (a romance novel, unsurprisingly), where the main character thanked the love interest with a kiss. He figured since that he'd said 'thank you' out loud twice already, a little variety was in order.
He leant in, eyes falling closed and hands moving to the knight's shoulders to balance himself. He saw the other flush the moment before his eyes shut, and heard Slader's breath hitch in his throat, as though he was going to say something but faltered.
He pressed a soft kiss to the corner of Slader's lips, humming softly. He felt the other lean slightly into the contact but, staying true to what he read, he pulled away after just a few seconds.
Gowther sat back, looking up at the knight as he set his hands back in his own lap, head tilted to the side and golden eyes curious.
Slader blinked quickly a couple of times, snapping out of it as a soft, quick knock was heard at the door.
"Sir Gowther?" The voice, which they both recognised as Elizabeth, began. "Sir Slader? We're going into town, are you coming?"
Gowther hopped up from the bed to go to the door. His hand rested on the door panel, but didn't open it, simply speaking a little louder than normal to let the sound of his voice pass through the wood.
"Just a moment, please." He responded.
"We'll be waiting downstairs!" The Princess replied cheerily. Gowther had no doubt she was smiling when she said it.
With that, Elizabeth went back downstairs (Gowther could tell from the footsteps), leaving the doll to walk back over to his hammock. He pulled his thin pyjama top up over his head as he spoke softly.
"I'll be going with them" He said as he put the shirt to the side. "Will you?"
Slader looked away from the doll as he undressed, the blush that had just started to leave his cheeks returning full force. He himself had fallen asleep fairly late and hadn't gotten changed beforehand, so the only one needing to get dressed was Gowther.
"I think I will." He said, looking to the side. "After all, it's likely everyone else is."
Slader averted his gaze as the doll slipped off his pants stepping out of them as they hit the floor. The knight focused on just pulling on his boots while the other changed, which didn't take long and left him studying the floorboards to keep his eyes off the sin.
The doll changed quickly, pulling on his clothes with ease despite the fact some of the items were quite tight fitted. He tugged his shirt over his head last, pulling in down and fiddling with the strap of his back undergarment for a second. He let out a soft, slightly irritated huff of breath; the strap was twisted, and he found that he couldn't sort it.
"Slader?" He said, trying to catch the knight's attention.
Gowther tapped his exposed shoulder just next to the black strap.
"Can you sort this for me?" He asked softly.
Slader stood up, taking the few steps over to the sin and hands going to the strap.
"Of course." The knight said with a smile. He had to fiddle with it for a moment, letting out a slightly irritated huff before he managed to untwist the fabric. "There.♡"
Gowther turned to face the Knight, going on tiptoe to press a quick, gentle kiss to his cheek. He had judged that Slader quite enjoyed being thanked like this, and had decided that he didn't mind it either, and so elected to thank him with kisses more often.
Slader watched briefly as the doll quickly headed out of the room, heels clicking softly on the floorboards. He brought his hand up to his lips, touching them lightly, before following the sin out with a soft chuckle and a little shake of his head.
He might not fully understand his feelings for Gowther yet, but he felt he was certainly on the right track.