Five years was a long time. Time enough to heal most of the hurts Morgana and other people of the same dark magic had caused Camelot. Time enough for the people to put the suffering of Uther and his legacy behind them and start accepting magic as part of their lives. But Gwen was beginning to think that there wasn't time enough in the world to ease the pain in her heart whenever she thought of Arthur. And today, it felt like five years was no time at all, and that it was only yesterday that Merlin had brought them the news.
"I wish Merlin was here." She said it to the night air, but as always nowadays, Leon answered her.
"He should be, my lady." There was reproach in Leon's voice.
Gwen turned to him. "Why would you say that?"
"He knows you're unhappy. He's your friend. It's not very… well, compassionate."
"Merlin had very little compassion left, I think."
Leon raised his eyebrows. "Merlin? He worked day and night during the great flood, and when that nest of…"
Gwen put a hand on Leon's arm.
"I know. He gives Camelot all he has. For… for him." She couldn't bring herself to speak the name aloud. "He does it out of duty. But have you ever seen him tend to the wounds of a single soldier or villager? Not once after… after. With all these new healers he doesn't have to, of course. Have you seen his face when the supplicants tell their tales? The old Merlin would have been crying for that woman last week. Now, he listens, he thinks, he rides with the knights to save her farm, but he doesn't…"
"Care?" Leon suggested when Gwen's voice trailed off. "Are you calling him heartless?"
"I'm saying that Merlin hasn't got anything left of his heart to give. I loved him…" Gwen swallowed and swallowed again. Leon covered her hand with his, and she forced herself to say it aloud. "I loved Arthur with all my heart, but Merlin…"
"I think I understand. Where is he now?"
"He has gone Avalon. Where else could he be on this day?"
"And he's left you alone", Leon said, but the reproach was gone from his voice.
Gwen looked up then, into his eyes. She knew just how much of a friend she had in Sir Leon. She knew, and he knew that she knew. It had been that way for years now. Soon, it would be time for more, but not tonight. Tonight was for remembering Arthur.
"I think I'll go to bed now", Gwen said.
"Very well, my lady."
"We'll look at the plans for the Ealdor granaries first thing tomorrow."
"I'll bring all the document's you need, my lady."
"Thank you, Leon."
Gwen took a step forwards before Leon had time to step aside. For a short moment, she had her cheek against the linen of his shirt. She took a deep breath, then let go of his arm and went into her bedchamber. It was a long while before she heard Leon's steps disappear down the hallway.