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always today

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It was exactly one hour, five minutes, and thirteen seconds to the new year when Merlin escaped his dark and gloomy apartment and headed towards the lake.

An entire forest used to surround the lake for miles but as years passed it was replaced with castles, to houses ,to giant skyscrapers, leaving a sparse area of green that stood guard to the lake. As the world rotated on its axis and carried on merry with its business, the lake remained the only constant in Merlin’s life. No matter how far he roamed, wherever he ended up, he went back to the same lake.

The same lake, the same calm, blue waters where Arthur sleeps.

And sleeps, and sleeps, and sleeps.

The dragon’s words gave him hope through the first few years without Arthur. Once, during a very dark time, he thought the dragon lied to him again. Maybe he was going to live forever missing a part of him.

When things got better again, he refused to think about it. Arthur is going to come back. Arthur will rise, no questions asked . Merlin didn’t survive wars, plague, earthquakes, fires, and floods for nothing. Surely the universe had plans for him.

Plans that were, apparently, taking a really really long time.

Visiting the lake on New Year’s Eve became a tradition for Merlin. He told Arthur stories of his adventures since his last visit. Merlin would see places and things that he thought Arthur would like and told that to the lake, too. In the quiet, he recalled all those moments they had before with a bittersweet feeling in his chest.

“We were supposed to have more time,” Merlin would say, “but when you come back, I’ll make sure we’ll have all the time in the world.”

He heard the sound of fireworks above and looked at their reflection in the lake. The dark night was bursting with color and was shining with the hope the new year would bring. The ten-second countdown was already starting. People would be grabbing their loved ones out to see the fireworks above.

Merlin was still alone at the shore.

10!

Maybe this year would be the year.

9!

When Albion’s need is greatest,

8!

“I miss you.”

7!

Arthur would rise again.

6!

“Come home.”

5!

Please.

4!

“I’m waiting.”

3!

“I’ve been waiting for a really long time.”

2!

“Happy New Year, you prat.”

1!

Nothing happened.

Just like all those other times.

Merlin sat there for a few more minutes. He thought about the people greeting each other a happy new year with smiles in their faces, holding their dear ones close, vowing that they would be together for whatever the new year would bring. He wondered when he would be able to do that too.

He stood up looking at the lake still waiting for something to happen. He wouldn’t mind if it suddenly spat out Arthur. He wouldn’t mind at all.

But the lake remained as if it was frozen in time.

Merlin walked away, preparing himself for another year of waiting.

*

It was five hours and thirteen minutes into the new year when the lake’s waves rushed to the shore like a strong gust of wind passed by.

When they pulled back, it revealed the shore, the metal of a sword and a man’s armour shining in the moonlight.