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Waiting to Exhale

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Water. The stuff of life. This is where it all began. And ended. Even after a thousand years, his heart still ached with the loss. He closed his eyes against the pain, as though he could shutter his heart and let go of the breath he’d been holding.

Silver glimmered on the still water, reflecting back the cold light of the moon. Merlin dangled his hand out of the canoe, fingertips trailing in the water. He marveled at the way it coated his hand, gleaming, and dripped off, plink, plink plink.

Crickets chirped loudly, singing their nocturnal songs. A frog croaked, calling to a friend. Off in the distance, an owl hooted. Merlin let the world soothe him, as it had done for a millenia. He leaned back in the canoe.

He dipped his hand back in the water, shivering at the touch this time as his fingers tingled. He could have sworn there was an electrical current in the water, but no, he knew that wasn’t possible—. His heart stuttered before he calmed himself. He was not going to get worked up over nothing. Again.

There was a loud splash. Merlin jolted upright, nearly overturning his canoe. Ripples shattered silver light behind him. Someone was thrashing about in the water! Heart beating fast, shoving down hope that had bubbled up, again, he paddled jerkily towards the commotion.

The figure submerged and came thrashing up, gulping and gasping for air, before going under again.

No longer caught up in his own misery, Merlin gathered his magic into himself, coiling it in his belly before wrapping the man gently with magical tendrils. He lifted the trembling man into his canoe, almost upsetting it again.

A white linen shirt clung to him, revealing broad, well muscled shoulders. His hair might have been blonde, but wet, in the moonlight, it looked silver. Merlin looked into bright blue eyes.

“Thank you.”

Time stopped for Merlin. His whole existence narrowed to the man in front of him.

“Arthur.” Tears welled in his eyes, spilling over as, finally, Merlin exhaled.