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“I’m going to leave Arthur,” Gwen says.

Morgana and Leon both stare at her in disbelief.

“What?” Morgana finally asks. “Why? Did he cheat on you?”

Gwen frowns. “No,” she says. “Of course not. I don’t think he has the time for an affair.”

Leon’s face takes on a sympathetic expression, and Gwen tries to smile reassuringly. She knows it’s less of a shock for him than for Morgana. Gwen has been talking to him a lot over the last year about how invisible she feels in her own home. She had tried to talk to Morgana about it too but Morgana was too fond of the idea of her brother and her best friend being a couple to look at the situation rationally. And Morgana was too much of a Pendragon to really see fault with her brother’s workaholic tendencies.

Gwen sighs. “Neither of us cheated,” she explains. “And I still love Arthur.”

“Then don’t leave him!” Morgana interrupts.

“Morgana,” Leon says. “Listen to what Gwen has to say.”

Gwen nods at him with a smile.

“I love Arthur, and that’s why it hurts so much to be ignored by him.” Gwen looks down at her hands. “When he’s not at the office he works at home, and when he doesn’t work, he’s asleep. I can’t even remember the last time he kissed me, let alone really looked at me.”

“He kissed you at my birthday party only two weeks ago!” Morgana protests, but Gwen shakes her head.

“He pecked my cheek. I’m talking about an actual kiss, Morgana. On the mouth, with feeling behind it.”

“But I thought you two had been to couples counselling,” Morgana tries again. “I thought you were doing better.”

Gwen sighs. “We are, but not really. I can tell Arthur’s trying to make more of an effort, at least when he remembers that he should, but that’s not enough. I don’t want him to have to schedule reminders for himself to pay attention to me.” She looks up at Morgana. “Since your father’s death I’ve been taking the backseat to Arthur’s work and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of never coming first, and I’m tired of feeling guilty for wanting more of him to myself.” She looks to Leon. “Is that so wrong?”

He shakes his head. “Of course not, Evie. You already know that I’ll support your decision.”

She nods, then looks to Morgana. “I’m not asking you to take my side over his,” Gwen says. “I’m just asking you to understand that neither Arthur nor I are happy in our marriage. Arthur hasn’t realised it yet, but I don’t want to wait around until he figures it out because we all know he never might unless he receives a push in the right direction.”

Morgana reaches for Gwen’s hand. “I understand,” she says. “And I’m sorry. You’re welcome to stay with me for as long as you need.”

Gwen smiles and squeezes Morgana’s hand. “Thank you. It means a lot to me.”

Morgana gets up and walks around the table to hug Gwen tightly. “You’re my best friend,” Morgana says. “And I’m going to kick Arthur’s arse for you.”

Gwen chuckles. “Please don’t. I know he never meant to hurt me. It’s not his fault you Pendragons are emotionally stunted.”

“Hey,” Morgana protests. She pulls back and gently slaps Gwen’s arm. “Not all of us are!”

Gwen laughs. “Alright, maybe you’re an exception. You’re only half Pendragon after all.”

Morgana nods. “That’s right.”

Gwen catches Leon’s eye and they both burst into giggles. Morgana looks offended for just a moment before she starts laughing too.

Gwen thinks she might be okay.

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Arthur sits down with his pint, and takes a long sip. There’s a footie match on the telly but he isn’t really paying attention. Leon’s nursing his own pint as he looks at the television above the bar.

“Did you know she was going to leave?” Arthur asks at length.

Leon turns his head to look at Arthur. “Does it matter?” he asks calmly.

“Of course it bloody matters,” Arthur snaps angrily. “You’re supposed to be my friend.”

“I’m her friend too,” Leon points out. “And some things she tells me in confidence. It’s not my place to share her secrets.”

Arthur glares at him. He has never wanted to punch Leon before but he wants to now. They’ve been friends for almost as long as Arthur has known Gwen. Arthur considers Leon his best friend.

And yet it would seem that Leon does not consider Arthur his.

Arthur takes another long sip of his beer. The glass is already half empty.

Leon has turned back to watch the match, ignoring Arthur’s angry looks the way only he can.

He looks away. Arthur always knew that Leon wouldn’t betray any of his friends. If they told him something in private and asked him to keep it secret, then he would. And with Gwen it was all the more special because they’ve known each other forever. If it came down to choosing sides, Arthur knows that even though Leon prefers to stay neutral, he would choose Gwen over him.

Arthur drags his finger through the condensation on his glass. “I understand,” he says at length.

The corner of Leon’s mouth turns up a fraction. He stands and heads over to the bar, returning with two fresh glasses a few minutes later, just as Arthur drains his.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” Leon says. “You two were good together.”

Arthur hears the unsaid words – until you fucked it up – and takes another long drink from his fresh pint.

“Yeah, me too.”

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From: a.mathis@hackneyvetclinic.co.uk

To: idonthaveawhitebeard@gmail.com

Sent: 25/10/2015 09:12 a.m.

Subject: Your resignation

Dear Merlin,

I was very sad to receive your letter of resignation. I understand these last few months have been hard on you.

But while I cannot deny that your work hasn’t been up to the usual standard for a while, I’m very sad to see you go. You are one of our best assistants and we don’t like to see you go.

If you change your mind, or wish to review your other options for an extended leave of absence, please phone in or drop by the clinic any time.

Take care

Alice Mathis
Hackney Veterinarian Clinic

020 7946 0906 | 5-7 Well St., Hackney, London E9 7QX
a.mathis@hackneyvetclinic.co.uk | http://www.hackneyvetclinic.co.uk

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“Hello, mum.”

“Merlin, my darling. How are you?”

Merlin shrugs. “Not any different from last time we talked.”

“Oh,” Hunith says soothingly. “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to come home for the holidays?”

“I’m sure, “ Merlin says. “It’s not that I don’t want to see you,” he adds.

“I know, love. I could come to you instead.”

Merlin grimaces. “No, that’s fine, mum. I’ll be fine.”

Hunith hums in that special way she has. The one that tells Merlin that she knows he’s lying. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” he repeats.

“Alright. I’ll send you a package soon. No opening presents before Christmas Day, you hear.”

Merlin smiles. “I promise.”

He can hear his mother’s smile in her voice. “Good boy. Take care of yourself for me.”

“I will. Thanks, mum.”

“Goodbye, cariad.”

“Bye, mum.”

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Playa San Juan, Dec 20th, 2015

Merls 

Merry Christmas from Tenerife. It’s nice and warm, perfect beach weather. We haven’t worn more than bathing suits this whole time – sometimes not even those. ;-) We hope you’re doing alright. We’ll come by as soon as we’re back and take you out for a pint.

Much love from both of us

Gwaine & Percy