A/N: Just something that came to me after thinking about the finale of Merlin. The pronouns here are all kept purposefully vague, so feel free to interpret who-says-what and who-does-what as you please. I'd like to hear the ideas you guys come up with! This was written with Merlin/Arthur friendship in mind, but can quite easily be read as otherwise. Rory/Amy is canon, obviously.

Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. I don't own Doctor Who. I don't own The Great Gatsby (where the quote comes from).

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."


Gentle waves lapped rhythmically against the shore of the lake, ebbing and flowing, coming and going. The morning dew shivered as a chill breeze swept through the clearing. A man sat in silence by the foot of a tree, staring wistfully into the distance.

The sound of muffled footsteps, a snap of a twig, leaves crunching softly on the ground, indicated the arrival of a stranger. The newcomer stepped out into the clearing, gaze sweeping from side to side until his eyes fell upon the form of the first figure, still resting quietly underneath the shadowed branches. Without a word, he made his way to the tree and sat down next to him.

As if drawn into a mutual trance, they stared at each other. Green eyes met blue, blue eyes met green — all in one short, lingering eternity.

Silence crashed over them as two sets of eyebrows furrowed in thought, amazed at how much they gleaned from expressions that words could never convey.

A voice broke the quiet. "What are you doing here?"

"Waiting," came the simple reply. "What about you?"

His slight grin was laced with a hint of melancholy. "Waiting."

"For a friend?"

"Far more than a friend." His breath hitched with a sudden influx of emotion, because it was true. How could 'friend' possibly be enough to describe the bond they had shared? It couldn't. Their connection ran deeper than that, perhaps something best expressed with emotions rather than with words.

It was rare, because in that moment he saw the other man give him a look, not of sympathy, but of empathy. A look that whispered, You're not alone. I know. I understand.

The quiet lasted another minute as the two figures studied each other.

"I've lost count of the days, the months, the years. In the end, they all seem to…"

"…blur together," he finished for him, all too familiar with the feeling.

The breeze picked up again, scattering the russet leaves along the forest floor before dying back down to a dull murmur.

"Sometimes…" The voice paused, a light cough to clear the throat. "Sometimes I don't know why I bother…" His voice trailed off guiltily.

"Same here." Again, the look of empathy. "But then I remember, because my duty is not finished yet. And I'm sure yours isn't either."

And there it was: the irony that Fate and Destiny and the Universe had decided to weave together; that two creatures who were not-quite-human had to go to such lengths to prove their humanity, their loyalty, their dedication.

"I'll wait with you."

He gave a genuine smile.

"I'd appreciate that."

He smiled back.

The armour-clad centurion and the medieval warlock fell into silence once more, content to let their minds wander. Reminiscing about the past and wondering about the future, their thoughts lapped rhythmically against the shore as waves, ebbing and flowing, coming and going…