If Robbie was the kind who appreciated paintings, which he isn't really, despite the best efforts of several people, he'd want someone to paint this scene. It's not the first time he's secretly thought that when standing by the Cherwell around sunrise, but today the thought is different. Instead of just a simple wistful thought, it's an ache, a need for someone or something to capture this moment and the beauty of it – and he knows that photography won't do the trick. It's too bland, even when it's done by someone really good. It would never properly get all the layers of beauty in the scene.
The single boat sliding through the quiet water, cutting it, causing ripples of splendid orange as the rays catch them, and the figure in that boat. Clad in a white shirt that isn't even darkened by the sweat soaking it in patches, instead rendering it slightly transparent, deepening the hue instead of really darkening it, allowing Robbie to see, when the boat gets a little closer, the work of the muscles under it.
He's watched this scene before and never let on about it. It's always been one of those things he just did. He supposes it's something to do with watching over someone; James comes here when he needs to work something out of his system and Robbie worries as he would if it were one of his kids. Only, it isn't. At all. And he's got the heavy limbs to show for it after another night of not enough sleep. A night of getting to know the muscles that are working the oars with such elegant precision.
This morning, however, everything is different. Which is why it should be painted. He's not sure he can ever express the scene in words. How he feels about that figure out there, sliding towards him now, growing in size. He's not tempted to step into the shadows this time and pretend he was never there. Instead he walks towards the river and sees James' face shift from exertion to surprise to a hint of something else when he looks up at the bank and meets Robbie's eyes.
Robbie holds out a hand to him and he takes it, though they both know he needs no help to get ashore. They take the boat in and walk along the bank. As they turn and walk up towards the road, they pass a young man, student Robbie guesses, standing at an easel. Robbie sneaks a glance and a shock of colours hit him, a sunrise more brilliant than any, and out on the painted river, a speck of white. He smiles and throws his arm around James' shoulders.