Epilogue to My Favourite Work of Art

Bodie was a fine successor to Cowley's throne. Beauty and brains, my Bodie. Fists of steel and a heart of gold. He made the Cow proud right up to the day the old man died. Made me proud too, and put more than a few grey hairs on me head at the same time. It's not easy standing on the sidelines. There were times I couldn't bear it. Times I went charging in to the rescue... times I acted as the decoy...

Christ, you can take the boy out of CI5, but you can't take CI5 out of the boy!

Murphy was taken from us one dark day in 1997. Bloody hell, I don't like to think of the way the poor bastard died. Bodie was devastated at losing such a good mate and his right hand man at CI5, though you would never guess the depths of his emotion from the stony face he wore to the funeral. I'm the one who picked up the pieces when he finally fell apart. I understood all too well what was going through his mind: that could have been me he had to bury...

Fuck, it could have been me burying him!

We bought Kestrel's Reach as a getaway in the spring of 2002. I fell in love with the little whitewashed cottage at first sight. The property was situated well off the beaten path in Cornwall and commanded a magnificent view of the rocky coastline. The cottage's quaint exterior suggested something straight out of a Jane Austin novel, but some genius of an interior designer had created a living area that was spacious, had good lighting, and boasted all the mod cons. Nothing special was needed in the line of landscaping. Nothing could compete with our panoramic, ever changing sea view.

I happily entered a new phase of painting: landscapes. Sunset beaches and stormy seas. Not a gun in sight. No dirty alleyways or strung out junkies. Sand and surf and Bodie in the buff, his bare bottom striding into the foaming water, bent over to pick a posy or modestly scampering out of sight around a rocky outcropping. Nothing I could sell, really. Maudlin crap for the most part. But my efforts made Bodie laugh, while the sea air put colour in his cheeks and a bounce back into his walk.

Who could put a price on something like that?

That little cottage was a piece of heaven on earth for me. How I longed for the sanctuary of our seaside retreat when London reclaimed us. But I kept true to my vow that I would never stand in the way of what Bodie felt he had to do. It was up to him to decide when he'd had enough. Stolen moments at Kestrel's Reach would have to suffice 'til then.

And so he stubbornly carried on with his crusade, right up to the day a bomb exploded at HQ and almost made a Bodie-shaped hole in my life.

Christ, but I've had my fill of hospitals! They're bloody, depressing places -- and it's always worse when Bodie is the one laid low. I can take the pain. I just can't bear to see him hurting.

It took a long, long time for him to be up and about again. His left leg never did set properly. That limp will be with him always, I reckon. Plays hell when bad weather's coming -- it's more reliable than a barometer.

But you can't keep a good man down, or so they say. And Bodie, being Bodie, is the best of the best.

As soon as Bodie was up and hobbling around, I braced myself for him to start planning his return to duty... but even after a quarter of a century together, the blighter managed to surprise me one more time.

"It's time to call it quits, Ray," he said quietly one night, his head sweetly pillowed on my breast, his breath softly puffing a warm gust of air against my nipple.

My hand stilled its gentle combing of his hair. "Are you sure, sunshine?" I whispered. "Are you very sure?"

"Not a trace of doubt in my mind, love. It's time."

"Who'd have thought it?" I mused. "CI5's best: two old poofters, doddering off into the sunset."

"Always had my doubts about you, old son. You know... the artistic type. Curly locks and loose morals..."

I affectionately punched Bodie in the arm. Took a final look around his office and hefted the box containing his personal effects, making no mention of the stapler clearly labelled 'property of CI5'. My portrait of the old man gazed down upon us disapprovingly.

"Goodbye, George," we said in unison.

And then we closed the door on that part of our life, and walked away.

Sharp blasts of rain beat against the cottage, but nature's little temper tantrum meant nothing to us. We'd weathered far worse in CI5.

"S'funny, innit?" I mused, setting my empty wine glass on a side table, and giving Bodie a nudge with one toe to draw his attention to the book spread open on my lap. "All the paintings I've done, and you've never said a word to me one way or the other."

"Never asked me, did you?"

"All right, I'll ask." I held up the sturdy volume that documented my long, illustrious career. "Which one's your favourite, then?"

Bodie shook his head and carefully set my book aside. "Not in there, is it."

"Then it's the one I like?" I said eagerly. "That first one I did of you..."

"No." He shook his head emphatically.

"No? Bodie, stop messing about! Are you saying there's naught a single one you fancy?"

" 'Course there is, you ass."

"Well, then? Which is it?"

"Would've thought that would be obvious after all these years." Bodie framed my face between his hands and gazed solemnly into my eyes. "This one. It's you, Ray. It's always been you. You're my favourite work of art."

-- THE END --

January 2008

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