Thank you to Robellia, WayRoundWrong, empty-eyed dreamer, Megane-Nato, XxCapturetheLightxX, Nayunari 'Ayu' Tsuki, AlteaAuroraRia, Kufuffelupagus, BunnyFleur, MarsMonster, motolokiev, Heather and ADashOfInsanity for reviewing chapter 17! This will be the last chance i have to thank you guys for reviewing(on AL anyhow) so I really mean it and thank you all for spurring me on :) Thank you in advance also to all those that review this chapter, and thanks to all those that read and review this story in the future!

Keep an eye out for a spin-off I'm writing to celebrate 100+ reviews (and dedicated to the lucky 100th reviewer MarsMonster) - I'll shove a link on my profile to it when it's done! ;)


In a foreign hotel new light streamed past faded blue shutters into a small, east-facing bedroom, brushing its golden fingertips over pale yellow walls and wooden floorboards. To the left of the window the light moved over a simple white chest of drawers, gently touching the floral detailing on the handles and skirting whilst above this a recently adjusted mirror reflected an oval of light back up at the unusually high ceiling. In one corner a plumped and inviting armchair sat conveniently next to a bedside table and lamp – but no reading had been done there. The sunlight, however, showed other signs of activity – on one half of the double bed crumpled sheets and a dented pillow gave support to not a person but a disarray of paint tubes, brushes and mixing palettes. On the other half of the bed was Marth.

With his eyes still closed his mind drifted slowly towards wakefulness; daytime thoughts and remembrances starting to seep into his dreamstate like pleasant flashbacks.

It had been 3 months since he had agreed to travel with Ike, and not one moment so far had he regretted his choice. At the end of most weeks they would pack their things and go off in Ike's van to a new location – sometimes across borders, sometimes just into the next village. They'd stayed mostly in rural areas but Ike promised him some city life soon. Ike himself remained almost as eccentric on closer acquaintance as he had appeared from the start – a strange contradiction to his otherwise calm and easygoing nature. He painted less now he had Marth around – they spent more time doing activities together. And some days, to bring in extra cash, Ike would set up a stall on the street and offer to draw or paint people's portraits. Marth often accompanied him with a portable radio he occasionally sang along to, something Ike sometimes accused him of drawing in people better than his stall did. And Marth had made several new friends, too. His new lifestyle almost made him forget, sometimes, what he'd left behind. But not quite.

Elisse wrote often (when Marth could promise her they would be staying at the same place for more than two weeks) and he had received her last letter only a few days ago. It read:

Dear Marth,

Attached are some photos of Aaron smiling – he began a few days ago and it's the most adorable thing! He still cries a lot but I'm better at calming him now. I take him to that field you showed me so long ago – Samus tags along quite a lot, we're quite close friends now you know. But the biggest news is by the time you receive this letter I will have met up with Martin! He called yesterday out of the blue and after a little awkwardness we talked like we'd never been apart. I know what I said before but… I would like to be friends with him. And it would be good for Aaron if he could know his father (though Aaron was the reason we split in the first place – aargh!) Well, life goes on, I'll keep you updated. No, don't give me that look. Oi, I said don't. There's nothing romantic going on here, alright? Mind you, you're biased on the romantic front – how's Ike? Any more fun since the romp in Venice? (No, I'm not going to let that drop. I still collapse laughing every time I remember calling the hotel receptionist hoping to speak to you and hearing him say in a peeved voice, "Sorry ma'am but they left just this morning. We are currently trying to track them down and charge them for braking the shower fittings…" I was instantly suspicious and your voice on the phone the next day only confirmed my dirty speculations – no matter what you say you can't fool me Marth, I know exactly how you broke that shower…) I'm going to add it to my list of phrases to embarrass you with. Red paint red paint red paint…

As ever yours affectionately,
Sis xx

Marth felt embarrassed but happy as he recollected her letter. Elisse had always been a happy constant in his life and he knew they would be friends for all time. When he thought of home and his previous life he generally counted not being able to visit her as his biggest loss. But of course, Elisse wasn't the only person he'd left behind that he thought about.

For the first few weeks of his new life with Ike he hadn't thought of Roy at all. He'd had other things on his mind – and if he was honest, he'd just wanted to forget the hurt Roy had caused him. But after two months of sunshine, relaxation and a loving relationship, the bad memories had fuzzied. Roy had been his friend. With romance and love they would have been boyfriends, but as that had failed shouldn't they still be left with friendship? All the things they'd had in common couldn't just evaporate with their fallout, could they? Of course, applying logic to emotion was never going to work, but for his own sake Marth had managed to forgive him. He'd even written him a postcard and persuaded Ike to return his £1050, but was content to leave it at that. Roy was no longer part of his life, whether good, bad, or neither.

As the minutes passed the sunlight strengthened, caressing Marth's face and slowly bringing him awake. He felt pleasantly warm as he shifted slightly beneath the blanket – but not quite warm enough. Where was Ike? He rolled slowly onto his side but the only things on the bed beside him were painting materials. Ike must be already up. And as Marth looked beyond the bed he saw him.

Ike stood painting the wall opposite the window, the sunlight highlighting the golden tones in his skin so beautifully he might have been a work of art himself. He was not just topless but bottomless too and Marth found himself staring at the broad shoulders and the smooth back, then the smooth curve of his bum and his strong legs. The idea of going up behind him and giving him a morning hug sprung into Marth's mind unbidden, filling him with a feeling of love and contentment. But he didn't move straight away and lay there comfortably for a few more moments, letting the happy sensation spread through every inch of him. It was only after a minute or so that Marth realised the greater context of what he was seeing – Ike was stark naked and painting the wall of a hotel room. His initial smile of admiration combined with a bemused frown as he propped himself up on one arm.

"Ike, are you sure you're allowed to do that?" He was pretty sure the hotel hadn't given Ike permission to paint a wall. Not that it was likely they'd mind too much – the abstract yellow rose he was painting was simply beautiful.

At the sound of Marth's voice Ike turned slowly towards him. The mixing palette he held in one hand unintentionally covered his groin but Marth stared anyway, a hint of lust creeping in as he raised his questioning eyes to Ike's face. Ike just shrugged, his blue eyes sparkling mischievously.

"Artistic licence."