AN: Not sure of the pairing yet, leaning towards IkexMarth, but I could make it RoyxMarth so tell me what you think!
"One super strong super big coffee please."
Marth looked at the stranger in front of him with as neutral an expression as possible. The man wore tattered denim short and an open shirt which was splattered in both dried and fresh paint. His shoelaces were untied, his dark blue hair a mess. The beginnings of shadows hung under his eyes, but this was counteracted by the eyes themselves – a sparkling, lively blue both playful and commanding.
"Anything else sir?" He reeled off the standard line, pressing buttons on the cashier.
"No, just coffee will be great."
"Can I offer you a free loyalty card? Buy six cups of any hot drink and get the seventh free."
"No, I don't come around often. Have my card though." The man passed a scruffy business card over the desk.
"Ike Greil, that's me. Want any sort of modern art, or even any art done anywhere, just call."
Marth took the card without comment and turned to the next customer. As he took the order, he watched the artist out of the corner of his eye. Upon receiving his drink the man had grabbed it and run out of the door like a wanted criminal. Shirt flapping, coffee spilling, the eccentric man burst out of the door wildly before turning and running down the street. Marth wondered what the rush was about.
"What did that guy say his name was?" asked Roy, his best friend and work colleague.
"Ike Greil. Artist. Heard of him?"
"Nah. And what's he running for if he's an artist?"
"I was wondering the same thing."
Roy sighed, with the familiar parental expression of people nowadays.
"You still on for karaoke tonight?"
Marth groaned. "Remind me – how did you manage to talk me into that?"
"Wouldn't you like to know." Roy grinned, and Marth smiled back, trying not to blush. He had always fancied Roy a little bit, but he had never been lead on, and was too shy to do the leading.
It was evening, and Marth helped his sister Elisse into the taxi.
"You sure you want to come to this party?" he asked her for the fourth time.
"Yes! It'll be fun!"
"Well if you get tired or anything…"
"Marth, stop mothering me. I'm older than you! Do you think I'm going to go into premature labour or something?" She patted her rounded belly proudly. "Don't worry, this one's brewing up to be nice and big."
Marth looked unconvinced so she addressed the taxi driver instead.
"Ignore him. And if I do go into labour I will personally pay you double."
The taxi pulled away. Marth looked at his sister with a mix of appreciation and concern. She still hadn't told him who the father was, as if he needed to be protected from such information. All he knew was that she was pregnant with an unwanted kid and that as the father had wanted nothing to do with it she had left him to deal with the kid on her own. Elisse caught Marth's expression.
"Stop looking at me like that."
"Like I'm so brave."
"But you are!"
"No, seriously, stop it. I will cry you know – my hormones are making me sensitive today."
After a few minutes the taxi pulled up at the bar that had been totally hired out for Zelda's hen party, an old school friend of Marth's. Roy lingered by the karaoke stand, taking pride of place in the centre of the room. Marth left Elisse to go over to him.
"Packed, isn't it?"
"Definitely. I think I'll have to take my jacket off." Roy tussled with his stylish leather jacket before throwing it to one side. Marth tried not to appreciate his chest.
"How are you with loud music and dancing?" Roy asked, his tone of voice clearly implying his own confidence.
"Terrible," Marth admitted.
"What?" It was hard to hear as the music was cranked up yet another notch.
"I said 'terrible'!" Marth cried over the noise. Roy was already retreating into the crowd, and Marth followed so as not to lose sight of him.
"What?" he asked again, beckoning Marth with one hand to join him on the main dance floor.
"TERRIBLE!" Marth repeated, but Roy was already dancing. Marth watched him, awkward.
"I can't dance!"
"Come on! Just try it?" Roy was enjoying himself. Marth was wishing he could disappear. It was quickly becoming obvious that any form of dancing would look better than simply standing still like an idiot. Hopelessly, Marth began to move to the beat.
"That's it! Loosen up!" Roy encouraged, but at that moment the crowd shifted, pushing between them.
"Roy?" Damn, what was he supposed to do now? But a firm hand grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward through the bodies.
"No problem." Roy let go of his wrist. "Now dance!"
"Just do what I do?"
But now the sheer mass of the crowd hemmed them in on all sides, so that Marth was so close to Roy that if he looked down to see how Roy was dancing he would end up resting his head on Roy's chest. However he was interrupted halfway through considering the pros and cons of this by Roy himself.
"Hey! Isn't that the artist bloke?" Roy pointed. Marth turned around. Sure enough, on the karaoke stand none other than the crazed artist from the morning was busting some surprisingly flexible moves. Wearing beige trousers and red breeches but no top or shoes, his style was hard to pinpoint – a combination of break-dancing, street-dancing and pure thrusting.
"He's a good dancer," Roy commented.
With such a unique dance style it seemed impossible to say if he was carrying it off or not, but combined with his unusual dress and general attitude there was certainly something captivating about it.
"I like him," Marth decided.
"Like him or like him?"
Marth looked at him. "Just like." And like. It was easier to fancy the artist in a way, because he was on a stage, removed, viewed from afar. Whereas when it came to fancying Roy…well everything just got a bit more complicated. Marth looked back to the artist. "What was his name again?"
"Ike, wasn't it?"
Roy watched him a moment longer and then turned to invite Marth to resume dancing. Reluctantly Marth accepted, and they danced for a few more minutes, tantalisingly close, until Roy decided it was time for some karaoke. Dragging Marth towards the stand he consulted him briefly on song choice before pulling him onto the stand for a duet. No karaoke had been initiated beforehand – they would be the first singers. A loud applause met the intro and the DJ cut the dance music to that people could listen to the karaoke.
Marth was terrified. Due to the loud music he hadn't heard Roy's suggestion of song choice and so it was only when he heard the familiar intro that he recognised the song. It was 'Five Colours In Her Hair.' Marth cringed even though he liked the song. However, the crowd didn't seem to object, and as Roy finished the first verse Marth joined in on the chorus.
"Everybody wants to know her na-a-a-a-a-a-ame…" There was lots of cheering. Marth tried and failed to convince himself he wasn't being watched. The only thing he could do was keep singing.
"Everyone asks me, who the hell is she? That weirdo with five colours in her hair…" Despite himself, Marth found himself settling into it, and as the song went on he sang more and more confidently. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Roy's surprised expression. He hadn't thought he'd be this confident either. But when the song ended he found out Roy had been surprised for a completely different reason.
"You're an amazing singer!"
"What?" He stepped off the stand and worked is way through the crowd until he left the dance floor for seats and tables.
"You can really sing!" exclaimed Roy. Marth smiled at the compliment.
"You're not bad yourself." He looked around the room for Elisse, who he'd lost sight of during the song. Weaving through the tables he scanned around quickly with his eyes, passing over her twice until he realised what he'd seen.
On the table in the far corner Elisse sat opposite Ike, t-shirt semi-lifted whilst he painted her belly. Marth blinked. He couldn't believe the crazy artist was actually painting his sister's pregnancy bump. Just then Elisse turned and saw Marth watching them.
"Hey! Marth, come see."
Marth wandered over to them. Ike's eyes broke concentration briefly to meet Marth's in silent greeting, but then returned to his painting. Marth looked over his shoulder at his sister. The painting taking shape was a stunningly realistic corn field gently swaying, whilst a beautiful sunset lit up the background.
"Wow," he said, unable to help himself. Ike, dramatically serious, either didn't hear him or deliberately ignored him.
"The baby normally kicks so much… but it seems to have settled down now." Elisse looked at Ike with obvious admiration.
"How much did it cost?" Marth asked. At this Ike stopped painting completely and looked up at him, disgusted.
"You think I would charge a pregnant lady for a casual painting out of hours?"
A casual painting out of hours? It looked like a bloody masterpiece. "Sorry, sir…Mr Greil…"
"Call me Ike. I won't take offense if you let me paint your face."
Marth figured he'd misheard. "Pardon?"
"Will you let me paint your face?"
So he hadn't misheard after all. "Er…"
"Go on, it'll be fun," Roy joked from behind him.
"Ok," Marth agreed nervously.
"Great. Take a seat, I'm just finishing." He was using ordinary face paints, Marth realised. How on earth did he manage to get such a professional effect with those? He watched as Ike added the final brush stroke to Elisse's belly and then turned to Marth, giving him a casual look-over before meeting his eye.
"What do you want?" he asked directly, and for a moment Marth was thrown off-guard. Roy answered instead.
"You could be a lion or a panda or something."
Ike ignored him, focussing on Marth and studying his face with unnerving intensity. "No," he concluded. "I think I know what to paint." He reached down into a small bag on the ground and pulled out a much smaller and more delicate-looking brush than he had used on Elisse. Marth, afraid he was going to paint a flower or butterfly or something, stammered out, "Please paint something manly," before he had a chance to think about what he was saying. Ike just smiled and began painting.
It was far more awkward than Marth could ever have imagined. Both Elisse and Roy were staring at him with a sort of absent fascination that would look more in place on the face of a new undertaker. But the painter himself bore an expression of pure focus. All of the painting seemed to be concentrated on Marth's right cheek and for a while Marth like to guess what was being painted, but in the end could work out nothing apart from the fact whatever it was was blue. Curiosity eventually got the better of him.
"What are you painting?"
"You'll see in a bit," Ike told him, continuing to paint. Up so close Marth could appreciate even more how handsome he was, with a firm jaw line and smooth complexion. He had a perfect view also of Ike's still-bare chest with all its defined muscles, a little incongruous with a painting persona, Marth thought. And then there was Ike's hand, so close that Marth could smell the paint on his skin, dabbing at his cheek so gently with the soft brush it felt as intimate as if Ike had been using his finger. There seemed nowhere else to look, and it was too rude to move. Tense, Marth waited as Ike finished the painting and sat back. After a long minute's scrutiny he spoke.
"Alright. It's done."
Marth looked to Roy and Elisse to check their reactions.
"It looks real," Roy muttered.
"As real as your face," Elisse answered.
"What is it?"
Ike reached into his bag and handed Marth a small mirror.
"Aaah!" It was a beetle. A perfect blue beetle that matched the colour of Marth's hair yet was somehow more enhanced, so that it actually looked more real than Marth's hair did.
Ike looked proud. As he was looking at Marth's cheek, it looked to Marth as if Ike was proud of him, and it did weird things to his stomach. They both stood up and Ike shook his hand.
"Are you a friend of Zelda's then?" Marth asked.
"The host who's getting married in the morning?" Ike smiled ruefully. "Old girlfriend from high-school."
"Oh." It was stupid to be disappointed that he was straight. Stupid. Marth scolded himself inwardly.
"Yeah." Ike gave a short laugh. "Didn't last though because I realised I was gay." He shrugged. Not elated. Not hopeful. Not interested. Marth carefully avoided Ike's gaze. But the artist didn't miss a thing.
"Don't forget, you need anything painting, just give me a call."
"Well goodbye for now, I need to be off."
Roy laughed. "Just in case the paint dries whilst you're not there?" he joked.
"Yes, actually," Ike replied, in perfect seriousness. Roy frowned.
"Er…right. Sorry, no offense meant."
Ike gave a false smile. "None taken." With which he turned and left. Roy turned to Marth.
"What a nutter."
"Maybe there's method in his madness." Marth shrugged.
"Pfft. I doubt it."
"Well he did paint Elisse's belly nicely, and the beetle… he must be doing something right."
Roy's eyes narrowed slightly, as if annoyed that Marth was defending him.
"Must be doing something right indeed."
Ike'll be back soon, he's got some more painting to do yet... Please review! Thanks!